VALPARAISO | Smiles broke out on the faces of a few County Council members Tuesday when a local attorney specializing in real estate and land use voiced his opinion that tax increment finance districts do not mix well with tax abatements.
Todd Leeth made the statement as part of his bid for a new tax abatement on behalf of the Aldi warehouse and distribution center in Center Township.
He unwittingly stepped into the fray between County Council members and the Porter County Board of Commissioners over a proposed TIF in the area of the new hospital at the northwest corner of U.S. 6 and Ind. 49.
At least some of the council members are opposed to the proposed TIF, in part because it will include the new hospital, which was granted a 10-year tax abatement by the council in 2009. Their concern is that TIFs, which capture new revenue from a designated area for use at that site alone, clashes with the tax breaks provided by abatements.
It has been predicted Porter Regional Hospital will save $12.4 million in taxes over the course of its 10-year abatement.
A consultant predicted last week that if the hospital is assessed at $100 million, which some say is a low figure, the proposed TIF will generate $26 million from that facility alone over the next 20 years.
Proponents say the funding is needed to improve and spur economic development in the area surrounding the hospital. Opponents say it will deny much-needed revenue to government and may force the need for a new local income tax.
The County Council granted the new tax abatement Tuesday for a proposed expansion at the Aldi facility, but not until after members voiced concern about the potential of the commissioners later deciding to create a TIF in that area as well.
Leeth made his comment about TIFs and abatements not working well together while attempting to distinguish the two tax programs for council members.
Aldi was granted a 10-year abatement on a proposed 100,000-square-foot addition to its existing 375,000-square-foot warehouse, Leeth said. The addition will bring at least 15 new jobs to the 138 existing positions, he said.
Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who voted against the abatement, said he could not justify the tax break at a time when county government is experiencing revenue challenges.