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STOCK_Griffith Town Hall

Griffith Town Hall

GRIFFITH — The Town Council has withdrawn its 2016 petition to leave Calumet Township and said it will soon file a new one.

"There is no stopping our effort to leave the township," Council President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said.

When the township's assistance budget went over 12 times the state township average in 2016, it triggered a law giving Griffith the right to request a referendum to allow Griffith residents to vote on leaving.

The petition was filed with the Lake County Board of Elections, and the referendum was set for December 2016.

However, the referendum was postponed after township Trustee Kimberly Robinson responded with a civil suit in Lake County Superior Court.

Her suit challenges the true number method used by the Department of Local Government Finance to calculate the assistance budgets for the state's 1,004 townships.

Robinson says weighted numbers should be used, as was the case prior to 2016.

Officials say the township is just under the limit when weighted numbers are used.

But last year, the Indiana attorney general's office said the state Legislature intended for true numbers to be used.

The lawsuit is stalled in the Indiana Court of Appeals as Robinson seeks to return it to superior court after it was transferred to the Indiana Tax Court.

The appellate court will decide if it should remain in the tax court or be returned to superior court.

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Tuesday's council action was twofold.

The council's first vote was to withdraw the 2016 petition and cancel its postponed referendum.

The second action says the town will present a new petition, based on the 2017 budget averages, after Robinson's lawsuit has its day in court.

Both unanimous votes were 4-0 in the absence of Council Vice President Larry Ballah, R-2nd.

Ryfa has noted that the 2017 numbers, as with last year's, show the township to be well above the 12 times limit.

He also said a new citizen's petition might be announced at the next council meeting on Aug. 15, adding that a half-dozen residents have already expressed interest in running it.

Ryfa said he hopes that Robinson's lawsuit might be resolved toward the end of the year.

"That would present a great time for the council to request a referendum election to leave the township," he said.

At stake is $1 million a year in property tax revenues Griffith pays into Calumet Township’s assistance fund — contributions that Griffith officials say yield little benefit to the town.

If a new referendum is eventually scheduled, Griffith residents would vote whether to stay with the township or leave it.

If it leaves, Griffith could request a move to North, Ross or St. John townships — or form one of its own.

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