Discussions for 2017 city budget continue in Terre Haute

(WTHI Photo)
(WTHI Photo)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Days continue to wind down for the approval of the 2017 budget and city leaders agree there’s no time to be wasted.

City council and the mayor met Tuesday night to discuss general questions and concerns about the proposed budget for 2017.

Mayor Duke Bennett proposed that more cuts be made within five different departments. Those departments include Motor Vehicle Highway, Transit, Parks & Recreation, Wastewater Treatment and Fire. In total, Bennett says those cuts would total out to about $400,000 on top of the cuts already made.

“They’re kind of across five different budgets, a little bit in transit, a little bit in MVH, a little bit in parks, a little bit in fire department,” he said, “We’re kind of shifting some things over to an area where we do have a good cash balance and so just things that we knew we wanted to go back and review from the first time we presented the budget. That always happens because some things change. We felt a little bit better about reducing a few more line items.”

Mayor Bennett also addressed the topic of layoffs to police and fire departments, specifically a letter that was sent out regarding the city’s financial situation and the possibility of significant layoffs within those departments. The letter, Bennett says, was sent out by a member of local law enforcement.

“I didn’t have a chance to comment on it, and so we’ll have to address that,” Bennett said to the council, “but that is the observation of the local police union as they’ve sat in on some meetings and put their notes together. That is not from the administration.”

“I think we just need to stay focused and grounded on what we’re doing here, and if the council decides to cut the budget we’ll react to that,” Bennett went on to say, “I think it’s a fundable budget again, we’re going to have a positive cash flow in the general fund at $4 million PILOT and so there would be no reason to have those kind of conversations right now.”

With less than two weeks until the 2017 budget vote, Bennett says he’s feeling good about where things are moving forward.

“We’ve got a balanced general fund budget, that’s where our biggest deficit is,” he said, “So we have one for this year, so as long as we get this other revenue option, storm water fee/sewage rate increase, whatever you want to call it at this point, then that will ensure that our PILOT payment is there. That’s very important for the general fund and so the budget that we proposed will do all of the things that everyone has wanted to do to fix the issues, so we just have to take that next step.”

Bennett says revenue is not included in the budget.

“There’s no revenue, just the revenue we currently receive is what’s in the budget,” he said, “Whatever they (council) decide to do, that will be added on and will increase the revenues next year, but it’s not in the budget. We wanted to make sure we were conservative and look at the bare bones, the bottom dollar, here’s how much we’re going to take in, here’s what our expenses are and when that revenue comes in, that will be able to make the bond payment that will be due in 2018. We’ll have to build up funds next year for that first bond payment, so that puts us right on target, right on schedule. We don’t have to have those revenues included, we’ll include them in the ’18 budget.”

City Council must vote on the budget on October 27th.