CROWN POINT — Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub is withdrawing a claim the county has been double-taxing Cedar Lake and Schererville residents for a county E-911 service those towns don't receive.
Scheub, D-Crown Point, said last week he and his advisers were wrong the week before when he demanded the county refund Cedar Lake and Schererville residents $125,000. He thought those municipalities had been erroneously charged that amount to fund the county's police, fire and emergency medical service call center serving other areas of the county.
Scheub's political opponents blasted him for spreading misinformation, saying his retraction raises questions about his motivation and knowledge of local government finances.
"It all came out in the wash as I knew it would," Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said.
"He wrote a letter to elected officials, stamped confidential to them and then sends a copy of it to the media. That is politicking 101. That was wrong."
Schererville Town Councilman Jerry Tippy said, "I found it hard to believe that the (Indiana Department of Local Government Finance) did not catch this mistake. Maybe next time the commissioner will do his homework."
Scheub, one of county government's top executive officials, is running for re-election this year as a Democrat. Republicans Strong and Tippy are competing in their party's spring primary for the chance to capture his seat this fall.
The state required Lake to merge its county, city and town E-911 police, fire and emergency medical service telephone and radio communications last year.
Most cities and towns joined the new county network, called a public safety answering point. Cedar Lake and Schererville town officials formed a second, independent Southcom PSAP.
The state informed local officials that each PSAP must fund its operation exclusively out of its own property taxes.
Scheub said John Dull, the county attorney, and Larry Blanchard, a part-time consultant for commissioners, suspected earlier that the County Council breached that rule when filling a $1 million gap in the county's E-911 2015 budget from property tax revenues to which Cedar Lake and Schererville taxpayers contribute.
He said, "I just wanted to make sure, from the start, Cedar Lake and Schererville weren't paying for something they shouldn't. I told (Blanchard and Dull) to check it out and if it is true, then we want to bring that out.
"It turned out at the last minute the state corrected (the county budget) for 2015, but we already had sent the letter. I was just representing the taxpayers in my district. We are just glad it's straightened out."
Strong, who represents Cedar Lake and other south county residents on the County Council, scoffed that he and other members of that fiscal body knew about the double taxation ban and crafted the county E-911 budget that doesn't draw taxes from Cedar Lake and Schererville last year or this year.
"We had the same concern months ago and made sure it didn't happen. The council was very diligent and made sure the entire E-911 levy only came out of the 15 communities — and not Cedar Lake and Schererville," Strong said.