Image 1 of 2
Photo: Joe Hren
Image 2 of 2
Photo: Joe Hren
State officials are ordering the City of Terre Haute to reduce its $8 million deficit by the end of the year. The directive came down several months ago, but some are frustrated because they say the mayor kept the information to himself.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says the state directive is a formality.
“It’s a paperwork thing, it’s all it is,” Bennett says.
City officials are struggling to replace the income they lost when the state capped property taxes in 2008.
“What they asked us to do is eliminate the deficit in one year and that’s impossible and they know that,” Bennett says. “They told us, we know you can’t do that, but this is the way the system works.”
Bennett got the directive from the state in January. City Council President Karrum Nasser says he’s frustrated the council is just learning about this.
“I think it would have been beneficial to everybody if we would have had all the information right when he received the information instead of waiting more than half way through the year to work on an $8 million problem,” Nasser says.
Bennett says he wasn’t trying to hide anything – he was working on a plan to roll out next month.
“The only thing we could have done in January is lay off half our staff if they were really serious about making our deficit go away in one year and hire them all back on January 1st and that’s not even feasible,” Bennett says.
Terre Haute is making progress in reducing its deficit – it’s down about $1 million since a $9 million peak in 2015. And Bennett says the city has had a balanced budget the past two years that could help shrink the deficit as much as $2 million more by the end of the year.
Bennett says he is still counting on a county public safety tax next year to help fill the gap. That tax has yet to be approved by county council.