Property Tax Caps
Over the next few weeks, conference committees in the Indiana General Assembly will begin hammering out compromises on bills before they adjourn at the end of the month. One such bill capturing the attention of Indiana mayors is a House bill calling for the 1-2-3 property tax caps to skip their 2010 implementation date and begin immediately. Speaking on WFIU’s Ask the Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says that bill, if it becomes law, would hurt his city’s budget tremendously.
“The problem is when you cold turkey cities and towns like this. We don’t have the opportunity really raise new revenues. I mean, you can do little things here and there. But you really are relegated to making major cuts to your budget,” Bennett said. “You can’t just go cut a few things here and there and survive. You chave to cut major things, things taxpayers expect the city to deliver.”
Bennett says cutting services and crafting a reduced budget is made even more difficult because the public doesn’t thoroughly understand the issue.
“If you go out and talk to anyone on the street and say do you know what House Bill 1001 is, do you know what property tax caps are? Most of them generally know that their property tax caps when down but they don’t know their impact on the city,” Bennett said. “Most people generally know there’s a negative impact on our budget. There might be some individuals that don’t really understand that completely but overall people know there’s something going on, there’s a loss of revenue, but that’s the extent of their knowledge.”
If the House bill becomes law, Bennett says he will have six-point-five million dollars less for the city’s budget next year.
Two months after the federal stimulus package passed, Terre Haute is preparing for an infusion of cash with the hopes their local economy will benefit from the added cash. Speaking on WFIU’s Ask the Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says the stimulus has had no impact on his city yet, although it’s been promised millions of dollars. He says there hasn’t been a sustained psychological boost among his constituents because they haven’t seen tangible benefits yet.
“What I saw was a big peak of excited when it passed and everybody was getting wound up. And of course we started getting calls from construction companies and engineering firms and attorney firms and everybody wanting some business and that died off pretty quickly. And then you start going through the rep tape process of applying for the money and waiting for the paper work to be process and approve or disproved. And so I think that early emotion is gone,” Bennett said.
Bennett says most of the money the city’s been promised comes from non-competitive routes of funding. Terre Haute has applied for many more projects that will be decided on in the next few months. Calling the red tape to apply for these funds “phenomenal,” Bennett says his community is cautiously optimistic about how the stimulus will eventually help their city.
“We will start generating some things, creating some jobs, some of those will be temporary jobs. At least we will be putting some people to work and we’ll use the stimulus money as wisely as we can in our community. So now people are waiting on how will it really stimulate the economy. Is this going to put a bunch of people to work? Can I see it, can I feel it? And we’re in that waiting mode now,” Bennett said.
Bennett says unemployment in Terre Haute has surpassed nine percent. He says he expects it to inch higher in the next few months, but says the jobs spring brings in with the construction season should help the city.