Commission member reacts to TIF fund SNAFU

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – There’s more fallout from Wednesday night’s Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission meeting where Redevelopment Director Cliff Lambert accused the city administration of taking “TIF” funds from various accounts.

That money is to be used to pay for major projects, and Lambert said the city has placed those projects in jeopardy.

“We’re to set up a separate account, separate checking account for that bond to make the payments,” said Commission member Brian Conley.

Mayor Duke Bennett said because of a new state law, his office must now take over the finances of the redevelopment department.  Conley says the concern isn’t necessarily with the administration taking over as much as it is, will there be money in place to pay the bonds?

“The bond agreements with the bond holders say we will have those accounts and we will have “x” amount of dollars in those accounts at all times to make the payments,” said Conley.  “Therefore, if the money’s not there, i have concerns.  Have we violated our bond agreements?”

Mayor Duke Bennett told News 10 bond payments will still be made on the Commission’s behalf.  Conley still wonders if this is legal, per the new state law. Over the course of the next several days, many government officials will turn to legal and financial experts to get an opinion on how a new state law changes how redevelopment’s monies can be handled by the city.

“If the comptroller’s office has our money and our legal counsel says there’s not a problem, then i don’t have a problem,” Conley concluded.

Until those opinions are made public, the mayor’s office still has redevelopment monies in city accounts, and redevelopment waits in limbo to see how they will continue to do business moving forward.

Conley told News 10 the city’s move could potentially hurt the city’s excellent bond rate.  That would mean the city would pay more interest in future bonds and redevelopment would likely be forced to do smaller projects.

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