Monday, December 21, 2009

Porter County property taxes

Under the headline: "County fears tax collections may be down" the Times went ahead with a story that isn't quite a complete picture.

On Friday there was a flurry of activity when an unofficial report came out of the Porter County information office of Sharon Lippens suggesting that some tax collections may be a lot lower than expected. In subsequent review though the figures were not exactly as they appeared and County Auditor Kopp and Lippens were going to further review.

So far it does appear collections may be a bit lower than normal years, which tend to be in the 95% average, but it stands to be seen if they are quite a bit lower. Bills did go out and were due in Porter County on December 4, 2009.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gary asking for a land based casino

Can Gary Indiana use a land based casino to increase gaming revenues, help continue to reduce property tax rates to state caps, and create jobs through construction stimulus?

The possibility of sweeping casino legislation in Indiana has Gary leaders looking for some solutions, and opportunities. The political implications, analyzed and argued elsewhere I'm sure, notwithstanding this does seem to be one possible solution to the intractable problems facing the City of Gary and it's related governmental agencies.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Calumet Corridor Survey is Live

If you live in, work in, or have strong opinions about Hammond Indiana ... this is the survey for you to review and participate:

Hammond Indiana Calumet Corridor Project and Survey

Little Calumet River Development hiring

See Job Posting Here for Executive Director Little Calumet River Commission

From the Times: A new executive director will help oversee the final phase of levee construction and the day-to-day management of the Little Calumet River Flood Control and Recreation Project.

Last week, the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission posted the position, which has been vacant since floodwaters from the Little Calumet River and Hart Ditch swept through the region last fall. Days after the flood, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and Gov. Mitch Daniels called for the removal of Dan Gardner, who had served as the commission's director since 1990.

In their requests for Gardner's dismissal, the two cited the fact that levee construction was still not complete, although it started in 1991 and was set to be done within a decade.

Commission Chairman Dan Dernulc said with the final phase of construction now under way and with perpetual maintenance on the horizon, it's the right time to fill the post.

The commission currently is involved in developing a comprehensive maintenance plan for the levee system, which runs from Gary to the Illinois state line. That plan could involve the municipalities of Hammond, Munster, Highland, Griffith and Gary having a role in maintaining their sections of the system. Dernulc said the director would help ensure proper maintenance is taking place and that the system works as planned during another record rain.

"(The commissioners) all have jobs and can't represent the project all the time," Dernulc said.

The director, whom Dernulc hopes will be in place by the end of the year, would come on board just as the results of a series of recent inspections on completed levees are released.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Indiana Municipal News Today

For breaking news on the Indiana Municipal Finance front, it's always worth checking out our facebook page: Indiana Municipal Finance Consultants

Merrillville looking to possibly shrink the parks department to just one employee in an effort to cut costs for 2010. This comes on the heels of recent investigation into a possible Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) filing, which may not be possible. The DUAB was created as an appeals mechanism when property taxes were capped at 1,2 and 3 percent by the legislature. Municipal entities in Indiana that are affected "may" be able to file for assistance in delaying the impact of this legislation. Our team worked with the City of Gary on their successful filing in 2009 which assisted them with the transition.

Yesterday was the first day of operation for the Mishawaka to Elkhart interurban trolley service.

Portage to release it's comprehensive plan: From the Times

After months of work, the city's newest comprehensive plan is ready for review.

The plan, which is a road map guiding city officials on development, will be formally presented to the Plan Commission during a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

"There are not a lot of huge changes. We got down into some more details than the 2002 plan," said City Planner Joe Csikos, adding the plan takes more of a look at new development, rehabilitation of some of the older areas of the city and infill opportunities.

One focus for the future, said Csikos, is to not create any more subdivisions - the typical single-family residential developments on half-acre lots with similar houses dotting the streets. Instead, the plan focuses on creating neighborhoods within the city that are a mix of uses, vital developments with considerations for walkability, said Csikos.

Development of the newest plan began last summer when the city hired the consulting firm of SEH Inc. of Munster. A committee of officials, business members and residents also was formed. The committee held two public open houses to gather information and conducted a survey of residents on how they wanted to see their community develop.

That information is contained in the draft comprehensive plan. Csikos said the draft plan is available online for review at and a copy is available at the planning office at City Hall.

Csikos said the public will have a chance to comment on the proposed plan at Thursday's meeting. If the commission approves the document, it will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration at its Oct. 6 meeting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DLGF Commissioner on changes in Budget

The Indiana General Assembly did pass a two year budget late last nite, and it was signed by Governor Daniels. This letter was sent this morning by Timothy Rushenberg, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Government Finance. Please call us today for assistance in planning your municipal budgets this year: 219-736-1800


The State’s budget bill has passed both the House and the Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for signing. Effective July 1, 2009, HB 1001(ss) includes the provision to move the unit budget adoption deadline from September 30 to November 1. Also, the bill moves the proposed budget advertisement (Budget Form 3) deadline to September 2 and September 9 rather than August 2 and August 9. A flow chart outlining the budget adoption process and deadlines for cities, towns and townships has been attached.

Other changes effective July 1, 2009 include:

The move to fiscal schools has been delayed until 2011. This means that beginning in 2011, each school corporation shall adopt a budget that applies from July 1 of the year through June 30 of the following year.

The “1782 Notice” period has been changed from 14 calendar days to 10 calendar days.

The Local Government Property Tax Control Board and School Property Tax Control Board have been repealed. All issues previously reviewed by the Control Boards will come directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance.

Political subdivisions with controlled projects subject to a referendum vote will need to provide project information to the DLGF for posting to the DLGF Web site.

We will soon be issuing more thorough guidance, but felt it important to provide notification of these important issues now. If you have specific questions you would like addressed, please send them to me and we will ensure they are answered in the guidance.

Very Respectfully,

Timothy J. Rushenberg


Indiana Department of Local Government Finance

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cender and Company in the news

As the distressed unit board in Indiana continues it's review of the City of Gary and entities affiliated with Gary, we were mentioned in recent news. We do not advocate for any specific position with regards to the analysis we were asked to undertake, as the State's Distressed Unit Board asked, we complied.

A plan to eliminate the Gary Sanitary District's property tax revenue and run the agency strictly on user fees is among the records under review by a state tax appeals board.

If implemented, the plan shows, GSD's property tax levies would be eliminated but its customers' user and trash collection fees would rise once again.

The analysis, prepared by GSD financial adviser Cender & Co., was requested in a letter in January by Cristopher R. Johnston of the state Office of Management and Budget.

Johnston sent his letter to Gary controller Celita Green after the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board toured the city.

GSD faces a possible $4 million deficit this year, a state report shows, because of new property tax caps. GSD, the city of Gary and several other Gary taxing units are asking the distressed board to raise those caps for local businesses to make up for the deficit.

According to Cender & Co.'s analysis, GSD would need to increase monthly user fees from $6.50 per 1,000 gallons to $8.06 per 1,000 gallons if the sewer operating property tax levy was eliminated.

If the sewer operating and debt service property tax levies were eliminated, GSD would need to increase that fee to $8.85 per 1,000 gallons.

An 85 percent user fee increase was implemented at the district in June 2008. GSD also started charging customers a trash collection fee for the first time this year after Gary privatized its trash service.

That monthly fee would need to increase from $12 for residential customers to $24.39, according to the plan, if property taxes were no longer available to fund the work.

Right now, according to Cender & Co.'s documents, the current cost of trash collection is $5.7 million, and $2.8 million of that is funded by the trash collection fee. The rest is funded by property taxes.

Several community groups are protesting that fee because a Lake County judge voided the contract it funds.

Distressed board chairman Ryan Kitchell didn't return calls about the plan, nor did Richard Comer, president of GSD's board of commissioners.

A final date for the distressed board to consider Gary's petition has yet to be scheduled.

Contact Jon Seidel at 881-3148 or Comment on this story at

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cities and Towns Association

The pre-eminent organization for networking and information regarding Indiana Cities and Towns is the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.

Some important resources there:
For more information call or check out the website:

Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
200 South Meridian Street, Suite 340
Indianapolis, IN 46225
(317) 237-6200

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indiana Cities and Towns

News today that affects our clients and potential clients:

"When asked what Northwest Indiana supporters of the Kernan-Shepard recommendations can do to promote his plans, Daniels' said, "Make noise, please."

Daniels' push for implementing the recommendations of the Kernan-Shepard commission came just days after Senate legislation to enact the reforms was amended to exclude Lake County from a key provision to replace county commissioners with a single county executive." From the Times

Hammond and Whiting discussing consolidating some services.

St. John and Dyer head to court over annexation battle.

Mayor of Portage still committed to consolidating 911 with county dispatch, to save money and to increase public safety. Head of fire union speaks out about not being included earlier.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Possible legislation in Indiana

We are attempting to keep abreast of pending legislation in the statehouse this year, especially legislation that may affect our municipal government clients. Here are the bills we're currently watching, how do you think they will affect local government?

House of Representatives Committee Schedule

House Bill 1620 would require government building to be built using energy efficiency standards established by the Indiana Energy Conservation Code. Curious, since we don't know a lot about this code if this substantially increases the cost of construction?

House Bill 1669 affects school corporations in the State of Indiana who desire to install a geothermal heating system, and the revolving funds available to do so.

House Bill 1435 which establishes a $10 judicial fee for the purpose of building a judicial center in Lake County

House Bill 1433 modifies the procedure to appeal a property tax exemption

House Bill 1441 offers changes to procedures for plan commissions

House Bill 1530 suggests a method for borrowing up to $2 million for consolidating government functions

More in a few minutes, General Assembly site is running slow this morning

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Question - economic impact of adding an employee

Today a good friend asked a really solid question:

What is the impact of creating a job? Let's say the job pays $50,000 and is located in Indiana.

I did a little research, since it's nuggets like this that really make for policy decisions. The rule of thumb appears to be that wages "echo" through the economy resulting in roughly 3 times the impact of the original wage.

Some of that impact is in tax revenues to local, state and federal government. Some is in housing costs, consumer goods, and household necessities. Sure there would be dramatic regional differences and in some areas of the country a $50,000 wage isn't even enough to own a home and car. But all in all, creating good solid jobs creates a lot of opportunity and activity.

If you happen across this post and have some good links to studies with details, we'd love to continue the conversation.