2017 Terre Haute budget passes after unanimous vote

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – City Council and Mayor Duke Bennett sat down Thursday night to finalize the 2017 budget.

Wednesday the council challenged the mayor to slash $2 million.

“We kind of go through that process every year,” Bennett said. “We start with the budget that we’d love to have, and then we get it down to the budget that we have to have. Tonight really for the first time since I’ve been mayor the council actually interjected in some specific cuts. We accepted those cuts. We negotiated a couple of them on the floor and got it done.”

Those cuts were mainly proposed by Councilman Earl Elliott.

The cuts came in the form of reducing a façade grant by $25,000, business developments by $10,000, infrastructure by $125,000, police budget by $100,000 and fire department budget by $12,500.

Bennett did say there was $100,000 the city didn’t use that could replace the money cut by Elliott for police.

“Those were items that seemed like or some of them actually increased over the prior year,” Elliott said. “And you know, didn’t understand why. And asked about them last week and based on the responses I got, I thought they were ripe for some change.”

Elliott says he actually wishes they’d come to these resolutions sooner.

“I wish would have gotten those a little earlier,” Elliott said. “We were getting down to the, you know, to the deadline. We were within two days of having this meeting, and we were looking at a minus one and now were wanting a positive one, and you know, what can you do?”

Councilman George Azar also proposed cutting $25,000 from the council budget, and it was passed.

Despite the nearly $300,000 worth of cuts, Mayor Bennett says he’s happy with the unanimous passing of the budget and thinks his administration can work with it to keep the city moving.

“That just means there will be a few things we won’t be able to do next year, but the majority of people will never know that,” Bennett said. “They’re not things that are critical. We’re still going to pave and still we’re going to do sidewalks and those kinds of things, i just have a little less money available to do some business development things we wanted to do, and just a couple of other areas. They were really pretty minor tweaks.”

Mayor Bennett believes the budget they’ve come to agree on is the best he’s had since he’s been mayor.

“We’ve got one of the best budgets we’ve seen in several years,” Bennett said. “You know, we’re moving in the right direction. That’s the bottom line. We can continue to fund the activities that we need to do and put ourselves in a position where we’re putting some cash back to be able to build our reserves up.”

However, Elliott doesn’t fully agree with that, but is content with what was passed.

“It’s not the best budget, but it’ll work,” Elliott said. “It takes some time and space to change the direction of a ship. And i think we’ve continued to change the direction for the good.”

With all of the cuts made, the city should end next year with close to a $1 million in the bank.

Another $200,000 is planned to be moved from the fire department to emergency medical services, but Bennett says won’t compromise or change anything when it comes to service.

Thursday night’s budget vote passed unanimously.