VALPARAISO | With the city expected to add more Washington Township territory to its tax increment financing districts, East Porter County School officials expressed concern over the possible loss of needed property tax revenue.
The city's Redevelopment Commission voted Thursday to hire Cender and Associates to prepare the financial information that is required for changes or additions to the TIF districts for both the Pratt Industries expansion and for the business park portion of Don Weiss's development.
Pratt is expected to spend about $260 million to build a paper recycling plant next to its cardboard box plant on Ind. 49 next to the Porter County Jail. The company owns 25 acres and plans to add 30 acres, which will be annexed to the city. The existing plant is in a TIF district.
Weiss plans to build 408 luxury apartments and the business park on the east side of Ind. 49 between Evans Avenue and Vale Park Road. Cender will be paid $7,500 for each project, which will require preparation of a plan with a description of the goals and how the TIF revenue will be used.
The commission hopes to complete the TIF amendment process by the end of February because the assessed value is set by the county assessor's office in March. The commission could then collect any increase in property taxes resulting from an increase in the value of the property after that date.
East Porter County School Board Members Karen Higbie and Bob Martin joined Superintendent Rod Gardin in asking the commission to continue to pass through the school district's portion of the taxes as it did on the Porter's Vale Shopping Center property.
In a letter to the commission, Gardin stated, "While the school corporation recognizes the city and the commission will incur expenses related to the Pratt project, it is expected the school corporation will experience an increase in student population with the addition of 641 jobs.
"The cost of expansion would be financed through the capital project fund, which is supported by tax revenue based on assessed value," Gardin said. "If the commission (creates a TIF district in) the area associated with the Pratt expansion, the school corporation will not be able to receive the revenue needed."
Gardin also asked that a member of the East Porter School Board be appointed to the commission as the representative of both East Porter and the Valparaiso school districts. The school representative has always been from the Valparaiso schools because most of the TIF assessed value is in Valparaiso. Gardin said that might not be the case in the future.
The schools representative is appointed by the mayor and Mayor Jon Costas said, "We are always open to new ideas, and it is helpful to have the perspective of the school system on there. Quite a bit of the TIF is in their system, and it's something we would consider. It's never been broached before."
Costas said the city will have to check the law to make sure it is legal to appoint someone from outside the city. If it isn't, he said the law could be tweaked to make it possible.