BY MARY WILDS, Times of Northwest Indiana Correspondent

DYER | Now that property tax caps have been signed into law, the town must either cut services or increase revenue.

That finding is included in a report Town Manager Joe Neeb and former Clerk-Treasurer Tom Hoffman gave to the Town Council at its April study session.

While officials have known for months the tax caps would take a huge bite out of the town's finances, the news came in black and white Wednesday.

Over the next few years, Dyer stands to lose $1,138,483 from its general fund and redevelopment, water and sanitary district budgets.

The general fund alone stands to lose $857,277, a figure that is fairly close to predictions the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns made earlier this year.

That particular fund is the meat of the town's expenditures and pays the salaries of town employees, including police officers and public works employees. The general fund also covers the Fire Department's budget.

Hoffman, who served as clerk treasurer for 12 years before retiring in December, agreed to act as a temporary special consultant to the town. After reviewing Dyer's expenditures and revenue over the past several years, he suggested developing a structured budget process.

Neeb said the town will carry out the idea, along with trying to build up a $1 million cushion in its cash operating fund.

Department heads will be working on next year's budget over the next six months and will be called upon to justify expenditures.

Hoffman and Neeb are scheduled to present the rest of the report at the April 16 Town Council meeting.

The report, which will be available to the public after the meeting and later posted on the town Web site, will cover Dyer's options and potential cost-cutting measures, which could include reducing employee benefits or requiring them to pay a larger share of health care costs, and more revenue streams.

"(Services have to be paid for), but we don't want to affect the level of service," Neeb said. "We can do it, and we will do it, but as far as what it'll look like when it's done I'd be guessing."

Final decisions have yet to be made, and they will ultimately rest in the hands of the Town Council, Neeb said, adding educating the public will be one focus.

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