Kosciusko County Council approved Thursday for the Redevelopment Commission to spend a maximum of $25,000 initially to look into the formation of a housing tax increment finance district near Syracuse.

Council Vice President Joni Truex, who also is the Redevelopment Commission president, said the Commission met and approved to seek approval from the Council and Commissioners to utilize County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) funds that are already there for economic development - which would be paid back through TIF funds - to start looking into creating the South Shore Village TIF district.

“We are looking to see first if it would qualify to be a TIF district and that process. The Redevelopment Commission has approved going forward with Baker Tilly. They came in at the low proposal at that. The group felt comfortable, they have a good track history and they’ve done this several times over,” Truex said. “We are allowing them to start that process, to do the 1%. This is all pending the Council and Commissioners approval.”

She said it would be like an interest-free loan that the Redevelopment Commission would eventually pay back once the TIF district is in place and funding is being generated from it.

Truex said it would be a housing TIF because if they do a housing TIF first, then can then do a commercial TIF, but they can’t do a housing TIF if they do a commercial TIF first.

“Our legislators in action,” she commented. “So, we want to do a housing TIF and then do also the commercial side. And then I think they have some plans otherwise for some not-for-profits and other ideas.”

Truex made the motion to approve - pending Commissioners’ approval - utilizing the CEDIT funds to help start the housing TIF process. Councilman Mike Long seconded the motion.

Council President Sue Ann Mitchell asked Truex if she knew what kind of dollars they were talking about. Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation CEO Alan Tio said he believed Baker Tilly said in the ballpark of $12,500 but the suggestion was for a budget of $25,000. Truex said Baker Tilly wants $7,500 max, but there also would be attorney fees for the Redevelopment Commission, which would be about an additional $7,500, and there may be some additional charges, depending on the requirements.

“It’s a very lengthy process, so $25,000 or less is what we’re ballparking,” Truex said.

County Auditor Michelle Puckett said the money would come out of the KEDCO Special Projects line item in the CEDIT fund.

Truex said it was $25,000 initially, but they would come back to the Council if there was a need for additional funds for the process.

The $25,000 was approved 6-0 by the Council, with Councilwoman Kathleen Groninger absent.

Tio also presented the Council with an ordinance for the county to be a member of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority for an additional eight years, which the Council approved unanimously. Kosciusko County is one of 11 members of the RDA and has been a member since about 2016. There is no cost to be a part of the RDA.

Mitchell presented the letter she prepared for the Council’s non-binding review of each taxing unit’s levy limits in the county. She said it was similar to the review they sent out to the units last year.

“We aren’t telling anybody what they can and can’t spend, but we are trying to encourage people in the various taxing units to do the right thing, to look at their year-end cash balances, to review what their 2022 certified budgets were and what their June 30 balances were. And if they have more than 2.5 times over their ’22 certified budgets, look at what they’re using the money for: Do they have a purpose? If it has no purpose, think about reducing some of those costs to the taxpayers. If you have no large increases planned, long-range saving that’s obviously the logical thing to do,” she said.

Mitchell said for a lot of the townships and fire territories working toward fire trucks and other pieces of equipment, “that makes all the sense in the world. It’s a whole lot smarter to amass that money than it is to go into debt to buy it.”

She said they taxing units need to be aware of the tax caps. In about three or four of the taxing units in the county, “the tax caps are becoming a lot of money that the taxing units are not going to get.”

The letter asks the taxing units to do their due diligence as they prepare their budgets.

In other business, the Council:

• Approved a transfer of $24,104.41 in the County EDIT fund from 911 equipment to EDIT contractual, as requested by County Administrator Marsha McSherry. She said this was to put the funding over into the proper line item in order to be able to spend it. This expenditure is for a contract for maintenance for software for the sheriff’s office.

• Approved a transfer of $30,000 in the county cumulative capital development fund from computer equipment to computer maintenance and software, as requested by McSherry.

• Approved the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Committee’s recommendation to give grants of $100,000 and $150,000 from ARPA funds to the Lakeland Regional Sewer District for bulk storage and sludge equipment respectively. The Commissioners previously approved the grants.

• Approved a request by Kosciusko County Highway Department Superintendent Steve Moriarty for a financial commitment letter as part of the Community Crossings state grant application for up to $1 million for two projects. The road projects are Old 30 from CR 450E to Ind. 13 and Pierceton Road from the town limits of Winona Lake to the town limits of Pierceton. Since it’s a matching grant, the county’s portion of the approximate $2.1 million for the two projects would be $1.1 million if the county receives the full million-dollar grant.

• Approved an additional appropriation of $40,000, as requested by Moriarty, for road signs. The money is from a check from the Indiana Department of Transportation for the county closing the railroad crossing on CR 400E.

• Heard a mid-year update from Tio on what KEDCO has been up to this year.