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Lake County's weekly hometown news source since 1857

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Tax rate estimates befuddle assessors
By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor
   CROWN POINT - Homeowners aren't the only people left bewildered by the State Tax Board's recent announcement of a new property assessment system that would dramatically raise residential property taxes in much of Lake County.
   Local property assessor's are also unsure of what the future holds.
   "The whole thing is bizarre," said Center Township Assessor Martha Wheeler. "I have lost my trust in the State Tax Board."
   "I'm just sitting back and wondering what's going on," said Hanover Township Assessor Carl Speichert.
   The property reassessment period officially began July 1, but assessors still don't have a reassessment manual.
   "We don't know precisely how we're supposed to do it," Wheeler said. "The manual is our bible."
   She said she has no idea how the tax board developed its numbers, which show increases ranging from 3 to 10 percent for most of south Lake County.
   Exceptions include the Ross Township portion of Crown Point, which would see a nearly 25 percent increase, and West Creek Township, which would see a decrease of almost 13 percent.
   Those shifts are minor compared to the 240 percent increase East Chicago homeowners would see.
   "How these people can come up with all these crazy statements is beyond me," Wheeler said. "I think (the tax board is) doing a ... poor job.
   "The current reassessement will go on the books in 2001 for property taxes payable in 2002.
   The potentially dramatic tax rate changes are a result of a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court requiring a change in the assessment process to force a more objective, market-oriented approach.
   The proposed change has the effect of shifting property taxes from business and farms to residential property.
   But Speichert questioned the state's position on the distribution of Lake County's tax burden.
   "Why is the State Tax Board trying to shift tax burden from industry to residents?" he said. "I don't see where the industry is that over-taxed."
   Regardless of what the State Tax Board says, Wheeler doesn't believe the state legislature will allow the dramatic tax increases shown in the board's projections.
   "The legislature isn't going to allow anything that hurts residential tax payers too much," she said, because "they're the voters."
   The courts did "throw everybody a curve ball," Wheeler acknowledged, so there will be some change, but "I don't look for anything that's going to wipe people out."
   Speichert noted that the dramatic changes would affect a small part of the county.
   "The only two townships out of line are Hobart and North," he said, noting all taxing jurisdictions in those townships face significant increases, while other townships have more moderate increases, and even some decreases.
   The complete story is available in the STAR.      






Fowl Show

Gary Ganek of G & D Cork Decoys in Fox Lake, Illinois explains the qualities of his hand-carved and
painted decoys to Paul Copak of Cedar Lake during the Waterfowl Show held at the Lake County
Fairgrounds over the weekend.




Grants benefit art, space centers

By Karen Caffarini
Star Editor
   CROWN POINT - Students and the homebound will be among those in south Lake County benefiting from grants awarded this month to area agencies by the Lilly Endowment Board of Directors.
   Among the agencies receiving grant money from the Endowment in this latest round are the Challenger Learning Center in Hammond, $200,000 for the purchase of a second simulator; Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana in Crown Point, $65,000 to purchase equipment; and Northern Indiana Art Association in Munster and the Northwest Indiana Symphony, which will split a $200,000 grant.
   The grants are among $26.8 million in grants provided to 201 community projects throughout the state in Phase IV of the Endowment's Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow initiative.
   The September grants follow 24 projects already approved in June and 84 in July for a total of $42.2 million for 309 GIFT IV projects. Another 100 projects are slated for consideration before the end of the year.
   John Cain, executive director of NIAA, said the art association will use its $100,000 to purchase a bus to transport students to the association's three sites - in Crown Point, Munster and Hammond - for classes and to enhance its educational outreach program.
   "Last year, we had Cedar Lake students taking classes at the Crown Point Art Center on scholarship. This year we are enhancing this educational outreach program to include Lowell, too," Cain said.
   He said the bus, which probably won't be available for several months, would be used to transport the students from Lowell and Cedar Lake to the Crown Point site, on the east side of the square.
   He said the bus probably would pick the students up at their schools and return them there following the class.
   "Now we rely on the parents to get the kids to the centers. But the farther away from the center that they live, the harder it is to get the kids there," he said. "Some kids had to pass on the scholarships because they had no transportation."
   He said the bus also would be used to take seniors to classes and to take people on art center-sponsored field trips.
   The Symphony, Cain said, will use its $100,000 entirely for educational outreach purposes.
   Lisa Karney, director of the Challenger Learning Center, said the $200,000 grant will be used to help pay the $750,000 cost for a second simulator at the Purdue University Calumet site.
   She said the center will be going to various corporations and private businesses seeking the remaining $550,000.
   Karney said the second simulator will enable the center to have 600 missions a year, compared to the 300 missions it can now have.
   "We could serve 20,000 kids with two simulators," she said.
   She said the second simulator should be installed next summer, at which time the new building that will house the center should be completed as well.   She said the new building, which is projected to be 5,000 square feet, will be located one-half block south of the center's current, temporary location.
   The Challenger center is for students in fifth through eighth grades. It simulates a mission in space.
   Margot Clark, of Meals on Wheels, could not be reached for comment. However, a prepared release by the Lilly Endowment said the $65,000 it received is to purchase equipment to upgrade services.
   Other Lake County agencies receiving Lilly money include: Griffith Izaak Walton Conservation Lands in Schererville, $200,000 for construction of a hiking and biking trail; Lake County Public Library in Merrillville, $200,000 for conversion of human services databases; Northwest Indiana Planned Giving Group in Merrillville, $50,000 for support for program management and marketing; and YMCA of Hammond area, $200,000 for support for teen leadership development project.
   All the Lake County grants were applied for through the Crown Point Community Foundation and Legacy Foundation.
   A year ago, the Endowment allotted $153 million for GIFT IV funds for use by the more than 90 community foundations in Indiana. The foundations were eligible to receive $1.5 million for their counties; $300,000 of which was in matching funds to improve foundation operations.
   The remaining $1.2 million, or any part of it, could be used for local projects recommended by the foundation for direct Endowment funding, with the balance to be received by the foundation itself for any charitable purpose it chooses.

 

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