Valpo, Center Twp. try to create fire territory again

2013-03-26T17:30:00Z 2013-03-26T20:58:25Z Valpo, Center Twp. try to create fire territory againPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | A year after the Valparaiso City Council and the Center Township Board thought they approved the creation of a fire territory, they did it again Monday.

This time they hope it meets state muster.

A brief public hearing was held at Monday's City Council meeting to create an area encompassing the city and unincorporated areas of the township into a fire territory. All the paperwork has to be filed by Monday with Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance.

If approved by the DLGF, the territory will take effect July 1, but the first property taxes won't be collected until 2014. The two panels thought they had created the territory last year -- but learned last fall the DLGF rejected it because the tax rate was not advertised properly during the process.

By that time, it was too late to correct the problem, and the process started all over in January. City and township officials have said the territory is needed to continue the level of fire protection, which is and will continue to be provided by the city, under the funding limitations of the property tax caps.

"It's the right thing to do," Councilman Joey Larr said at Monday's meeting. "It's also a breath of fresh air to have two government entities working together like this."

The council voted 5 to 0, with council members Jan Dick and Deb Butterfield absent, to form the territory and then approved the interlocal agreement for the territory's operation. A five-member board will be set up to oversee it with two members each appointed by the City Council and the Center Township Board and one appointed by the Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.

Everyone in the district will pay the same property tax rate to fund an operating budget and an equipment replacement fund. The total rate will be about 28 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is about a penny more than city residents now pay but is about twice what township residents pay.

For the owner of a $100,000 home in the city, the annual increase will be about $3.36 while the owner of a similar house in the township will see an increase of about $42. City Attorney Dave Hollenbeck said an effort will be made to make sure the city finds out sooner than last year whether the territory is approved.

"After last year's experience, Carl Cender (the city's financial consultant) and our office are prepared to bug the hell out of them," Hollenbeck said.

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