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New law guarantees Griffith's exit from Calumet Township, likely merger into North
urgent
2020 Indiana General Assembly

New law guarantees Griffith's exit from Calumet Township, likely merger into North

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Griffith Town Hall

Griffith Town Hall

GRIFFITH — There weren't any fireworks launched to celebrate it — this year — but March 21 could be commemorated in the future as Griffith's independence day.

On Saturday, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 365, assuring Griffith's voter-approved exit from Calumet Township and likely transfer into Lake County's North Township.

"We're ecstatic," said Rick Ryfa, the Republican town council president. "Our citizens are very thankful that this got through this year."

Under the new law, which took effect immediately, Griffith has until June 30 to continue attempting to voluntarily join either North or St. John townships — despite both previously rejecting Griffith's entreaties.

Should no deal be reached, the law states Griffith automatically will join North Township. The town's transfer out of Calumet Township becomes final Jan. 1, 2022.

Ryfa said he's still hoping to reach a voluntary agreement with either township, though likely with North, which would allow Griffith to move up its exit from Calumet Township to 2021, instead of 2022.

But he said those negotiations are on hold right now as town and township leaders are busy working to minimize the spread and impact of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

"Once things settle down, I would like to reach out to them again and see if there's something that we can possibly do, collectively, between the town and the township to have a very good transition to coming in there," Ryfa said.

"Maybe we can sit down with their board and discuss the possibilities."

Griffith residents voted — by a margin of 98% to 2% — to leave Calumet Township in 2018, in part because of the high property taxes they pay to the township, which also includes Gary, relative to the services received.

Ryfa said if Griffith becomes part of North Township, the town's residents will pay approximately $580,000 a year in property taxes to the township — compared to $2.2 million to Calumet Township — in return for up to $50,000 in annual township services used by Griffith residents.

State Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, sponsor of the new law, said simply putting Griffith into North Township, instead of waiting for another township to agree to absorb the town, eliminates the possibility that Griffith might have to remain in Calumet Township.

Niemeyer said besides the high property taxes paid to Calumet Township, Griffith residents also have been forced to support the most costly township poor relief program in the state and considerable questionable spending by Calumet Township trustees over the years.

Opponents of the measure pointed to the negative impact Griffith's exit from Calumet Township will have on nearby taxing units — many of which already are in financial distress — due to the interaction of assessed value loss, local tax rates and the state's property tax caps.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, Calumet Township will lose $1.24 million in annual revenue, the city of Gary $371,000, Gary Community School Corp. $173,840, Lake Ridge School Corp. $105,830, and Gary Public Library $39,290.

Revenue would increase to the town of Griffith by $276,170, Griffith Public School Corp. $229,970, North Township $78,900, Lake County $69,600, and the city of Hammond $50,410.

Gallery: Indiana historical markers in the Region

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