GUEST COMMENTARY: Porter County Council must act on jobs, finances

2014-01-24T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Porter County Council must act on jobs, financesBy Karen Conover nwitimes.com
January 24, 2014 12:00 am  • 

A new year brings new opportunities for Porter County government to get our budget challenges under control — if the County Council will act.

The Board of Commissioners developed two very worthwhile short- and long-term proposals that have the potential to address the continuing budget shortfalls that face us. These proposals deserve the immediate attention and action by the County Council.

On a short-term basis, the council must act to create a safe vehicle to obtain a much higher return on the investment of our hospital proceeds money by setting up a permanent endowment of $100 million.

The Porter County Community Foundation proposal would provide a guaranteed return of 5 percent annually. That is $5 million a year in extra revenues for the county, without one cent of additional taxes. It would be fiscally irresponsible for us not to act.

That additional revenue would wipe out our current $2.5 million shortfall and free up County Economic Development Income Tax revenues to use the way they are supposed to be used — for economic development.

Working together with the commissioners, the council needs to decide the best and safest way to invest the hospital money. Whether it be with the Porter County Community Foundation or through a new foundation that we set up, we must move with diligence and a sense of urgency.

Every day we wait, the county loses $13,698 in new revenues. Every month we wait, the county loses $416,666 in new revenues. In just six months, we could wipe out our budget shortfall without one penny of new taxes.

On a long-term basis, the council must immediately begin working with the commissioners to implement the recommendations of the Jobs Cabinet plan. The only way to increase county tax revenues without a tax increase is to expand and diversify our commercial tax base, and increase CEDIT collections by putting more of our citizens back to work by helping to create more jobs.

The Jobs Cabinet Plan is an excellent roadmap to accomplish these goals. Yet it has been over a year since the Jobs Cabinet plan was introduced, and the council hasn't even met to formally consider the recommendations.

There should be no higher priority for the County Council in 2014 than to work together with the commissioners to implement these two programs. Together, we can immediately shore up the county's finances and implement an economic development plan to increase our future commercial tax and CEDIT revenues without any tax increases. These are opportunities we must not pass up.

Republican Karen Conover, of Valparaiso, represents the 3rd District and is vice president of the Porter County Council. The opinions are the writer's.

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