RDA Pushes New Tax; Punts on Six Figure Bonus for Director

Board will likely add six figure bonus to agenda next month

RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna l

November 9, 2017-The RDA Board dropped a proposed raise and six figure bonus for CEO and President Bill Hanna earlier today. According to sources familiar with the negotiations, a bonus of 20% of salary and student loan repayment as well as a raise in salary from $179,000 to $195,000 was on a version of the agenda that was scrapped at the last minute. RDA Board President Donald Fesko realized he didn’t have the votes to ram the raises through after Porter County Republican Chris Campbell failed to show. The Board is comprised of 2 appointments from the Governor, one from Porter County and 4 from Lake County. Only the Gary representative, Bill Joiner, indicated he was willing to support the pay raise in executive session according to the source. The raise was discussed via e-mail prior to the meeting which is standard practice for the RDA Board despite Indiana Law requiring decisions to be made in public meetings. The RDA is funded with $14M in casino revenue from Lake County and $3.5M in CEDIT funds from Porter County.

In other business, the Board continued to push a highly unpopular plan to institute a food and beverage tax. In conjunction with the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the RDA is promoting adoption of 1% tax on food and beverages in Lake County. The new tax would apply to any food purchased at a restaurant and proceeds would be used to build a convention center in Lake County. RDA CFO Sherri Ziller explained that there is a “windshield tour” next week where the RDA will take “stakeholders” to various region attractions including restaurants and entertainment hubs. The tour was described as a way for local leaders to see potential sites for a convention center. The agenda item listing the convention center feasibility study is listed below. Ironically, just above this item is the category “Economic Development” and the update for that category is “None.”

Please let us know in the comments, should Lake County residents pay a new tax to build a convention center?

You can see the full meeting video below.


  1. No to a convention center. We are taxed to the gills now. PLEASE!! No more. We don’t have any extra money, especially after the Hammond school referendums passed.

  2. NO to the 1% food & beverage tax. NO to the Lake County convention center. NO to the bonus and raises. Our taxes are too high and we don’t need to pay bureaucrats outrageous wages/benefits. We need spending cuts and deregulation, not more interference and regulation.

  3. Why is anyone paid a bonus for doing the job they were hired to do in the first place. I he did his job keep him employed. NO to the new tax and convention center.

  4. No to anymore taxes we just got the lake County tax people need to live within their budgets and I think a 6figure salary for the RDA is is ridiculous!

  5. NO! You have got to be kidding me. With all the education referendums out there, wheel tax, recent Lake County income tax, etc. I don’ think so. As a teacher, they want to get rid of my measly 250.00 deduction. Plus, our raises do not even cover the cost of living. We were told that if a referendum is proposed on the next ballot and it fails, we will not get a raise. So, NO!

  6. What is the proposed revenue to be garnered by the tax? Where is the proposed convention center going to be located? How much is it going to cost?

    • Those projections are not available at this point in time. The feasilbility study is being conducted by the RDA. That is the first step in moving the project forward. The “windshield tour” is a chance to push the idea on “stakeholders.”

  7. STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT ??? What a slap in the face to everyone out there that is trying to get by and struggling with the stranglehold of student loans.

  8. Keep you eyes open folks and Mr. Davidson on the next session of the Indiana Legislature!
    I think that there will be a move to authorize land based casinos and a convention center in Lake County and I think it will be the former site of the Radison Hotel, Star Plaza Theater, and Twin Towers Office Complex. To assuage the cities of Gary and Hammond, watch out for the authorization of medical college for IUN so

  9. Just got screwed with the new tax for Hammond School Board’s raise,now this. Couldn’t agree more with previous comments…pretty soon we’ll be paying as much as they do in Crook County!

  10. Apparently, Government couldn’t get thru some of their agenda, so they came up with the RDA…. 100% funded by tax dollars with no accountability.

    Bonuses with tax dollars? Really? Bull Sht!

  11. Why is the state allowing them to disobey State Laws? If they are not following laws, then the RDA needs to be disbanded. Is Mr. Fesko following in grandpa Power’s corrupt footsteps?
    Most people don’t get student loan help, most people are not getting good raises, food prices are up, gasoline prices are still up, taxed on income, property, vehicles x2 (excise/plate and wheel). Do these idiots not pay attention to Chicago news? Crook County keeps instituting stupid taxes on gasoline/tobacco/soda stating they “will raise $XX millions every year for XX years and $XX million by the end of the year”, then come to the end of the year they cry that they didn’t raise what they thought because everyone that could, came to Indiana! If these idiots institute a 1% (does anyone really think it will only be 1%? At some point it will be raised to 1.5 then 2 then more) tax on restaraunts people will stop going out. What happens when people stop going? Restaurants close or lay off. That is more people out of jobs; people who can’t go to a stupid convention center.
    How about put questions on the ballot in May? See if We The People want a 1% tax and a convention center? Also, WE should be the ones picking who serves on the RDA. THEY want to control things and we have no say? Not right.

  12. Part time facilities using tax money is ludicrous. More money out of the middle class dollar is a crime. This rewards certain power brokers and developers. I see an empty lot where the Merrillville Radisson stood. Downsizing the previoues hotel and meeting facility. What does that tell you? Look for private investment? Bet you cant since this is another waste of good citizens and visitors dollars. Put this up for a referendum. Too chicken to have the voters decide? The Gary Airport Improvements were to bring in tens of thousands of jobs. Guess what. 6,000 defunct Volkswagens and a Repo plane business is basically the thriving force of that property. Quit the smoke and mirror tricks. The Wizard of Oz does not exist!

  13. No to new taxes. No to higher taxes. If a convention center cannot build and sustain itself from revenue obtain by its own customers, then that is proof that Hoosiers prefer other uses of their own hard earned money over a convention center. In other words, taxing to build a convention center incurs the opportunity cost that more valuable needs of individual Hoosiers will have to be forgone.

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