The response to COVID-19 will mean some adjustments for the City of Knox. Mayor Dennis Estok told the city council last week that preliminary reports suggest a decrease in funding for cities, towns, and counties. “The revenue stream is going to be shorted with this, and if you look at it, our [County Economic Development Income Tax] funds, people get laid off, unemployment, that’s where it comes from,” he explained.
State officials announced last week that the Indiana Bond Bank is working with other agencies to help local government entities that may be impacted by the waiver of property tax penalties.
Estok also pointed out that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs is suspending Community Development Block Grant programs for the year. “Basically, what they’re doing is taking that money . . . because they’re probably going to need that money to fight the coronavirus,” he said. The mayor explained that projects already awarded funding, like the improvements to Sandy Acres Park and the Knox Wastewater Treatment Plant, won’t be affected.
One change that could potentially impact every community in Starke County is the suspension of the Stellar Communities Designation Program for 2020. Constellation of Starke was a finalist in 2019 and had been set to reapply this year. The designation would bring in millions of dollars in state and federal grants.
The Knox City Council did agree last week to proceed with a $12,000 committment for the city’s share of the Stellar consultant fee, but Estok wants more information before actually spending it. “We’re still in discussion with OCRA,” he told council members. “They did kind of, in a way, say, ‘Follow through with your letter of intent and your regional development plan.’ We’ve got to see what they say next week on that because in my opinion, I don’t want to go spending a lot of money for the consultant to do this, if it’s not going to carry through to 2021.”
Estok noted that Knox committed $10,000 last year but never ended up having to use it, since the Starke County Community Foundation covered the cost.
OCRA has replaced many of its usual programs this year with a COVID-19 Response Program. Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch said last week it could help communities fund anything from mobile testing areas to economic assistance packages.