GRIFFITH — This town’s efforts to switch townships is being sold to the public as a marriage that could bring a lucrative dowry to the successful suitor.
Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa said if Griffith and St. John Township were joined in wedlock, Griffith could bring in an estimated $78,000 a year in tax revenues to the township’s other communities: Dyer, St. John and Schererville.
Ryfa said that is according to a financial analysis by Reedy Financial Group P.C., of downstate Seymour, Indiana.
He said if Griffith and North Township were coupled, Griffith would provide a marriage settlement of more than $571,000 a year to North’s communities of: East Chicago, Hammond, Highland, Munster and Whiting, according to the same estimate.
Ryfa said that money represents the township taxes Griffith residents and businesses would pay in 2020 in one or the other township.
Currently, Griffith is trying to get a divorce from Calumet Township, where it has been in a relationship for more than a century.
Town officials complain Griffith taxpayers are unfairly burdened with supporting millions of dollars in public assistance Calumet Township officials provide residents of Gary, which also is in Calumet Township.
Griffith residents voted last year to authorize town officials to secede from Calumet Township. After, invitations went out last year to North and St. John Township, but both declined.
Town officials then went to the Indiana General Assembly, where they got permission earlier this year to give Griffith more time to woo her suitors.
Ryfa said North and St. John township officials have yet to respond to the new invitation, but he hopes to hear from them before the end of the year.
If not, Ryfa said Griffith is ready to pursue another alternative — going it alone without any township.
Ryfa said the town would lobby the General Assembly for authority to provide its own public assistance and other township services from within the town’s own budget.
"With the numbers we've run, I think it's very feasible," Ryfa said during the meeting.
He said that arrangement would save the town of Griffith more than $428,000 annually and would still save its residents from having to pay Calumet Township property tax rates, which are many times above the state’s average.
Ryfa added Calumet Township has provided Griffith with around $30,000 per year in relief services in the past. Most of that relief came in the form of $1,000 payments to help pay rental bills at Park West Apartments, he said.
Indiana's 1,008 townships offer a variety of essential government services, including emergency assistance to low-income residents.
Griffith officials pushed for years to disengage from Calumet Township, arguing its poor relief assistance program was wastefully expensive.
He said Griffith property owners have been paying more than $2.1 million annually to Calumet and getting little in return.
Griffith successfully lobbied for the passage of a 2013 state law permitting a voter referendum to leave Calumet Township if the trustee’s township assistance tax rate exceeded 12 times the statewide average.
Griffith residents finally voted last year 3,301 to 70 to leave Calumet Township.
Times Correspondent Charles F. Haber contributed to this report.