The city is borrowing less money, the new city accountant software is delaying budget reports, new paving projects are almost underway and public dance permit revisions are coming.
On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Hren: Let’s start with what’s been in the news lately, the request to borrow short term, internal, interest free loan from the redevelopment funds for $2 million. The city borrowed $5 million about this time last year, so this new request would get paid off a year from now?
Bennett: Kind of. The $2 million we’ll borrow now will take us to the end of the year. Then we’ll have to decide at the end of year what we want to do to take us through next June. We changed an ordinance to go by six months rather than twelve months, which is fine. So I’m hopeful by next June when we pay that $2 million back, we won’t need to borrow any more from them again. Unless something changes, but I don’t anticipate that.
We feel good we’re reducing our borrowing by $3 million. That gives them more funds available, they still have plenty of money in the bank, it’s just that we can borrow at no interest and that’s why we chose that route.
Hren: Are these reduction in loans happening across the board, such as the property tax funds?
Bennett: We’ll probably still need to borrow $4 million next year from the tax anticipation warrant, but then after that we’ll begin to reduce it. When we eliminate the redevelopment loan, we’ll begin to reduce the tax anticipation warrant because things keep getting better here.
Hren: I wanted to follow up on the Tribune-Star article that a loan payment the city has from the county is due July 1st. Is that able to be paid?
Bennett: It’s not due July 1st. No. The county invested in a bond anticipation note. They invested their money in the city to purchase a note a few years ago. It’s due in payable in in 2021. We’re making some payments along the way to reduce the principle. We put a schedule together – we made a payment in January of this year, we’re going to make a payment in July and another payment in December. That’s totally on us. We don’t owe them anything except interest payments.
Hren: I have to ask you about this new city accountant software installation and the budget reports delay it’s causing city council members. Was this expected?
It’s really frustrating to me. I gave them a full report in May and everybody was like, ok, we’re fine. Yet there’s some political attacks is really what it boils down to.
Bennett: It’s really frustrating to me. I gave them a full report in May and everybody was like, ok, we’re fine. The finance chairman said we’re fine. Yet there’s some political attacks is really what it boils down to. The city council is not responsible to run the city’s finances. That’s not what they do. We give them 200 pages of report every month. We’re converting to a new software system.
I can’t run any of the reports because of the data is in the new system, some of the data is in the old system. I explained that to the council, no one had any questions. But in the meeting the other night it was brought up that they don’t have any reports – well, I don’t have any reports either.
Hren: So maybe the question is, how do you know the budget is ok if there are not any reports?
Bennett: Because we know. We track it ourselves. We can pull it into spreadsheets, it’s just not anything you can hand out because it comes from multiple sources.
Hren: How’s Margaret Avenue coming along, more delays?
Bennett: We’re picking up a few days here and there. I still really believe we’ll be able to open it up to traffic by March of next year. We’re a little behind our original schedule. But they don’t have to be done until next July. But I think we’re going to get back on schedule as long as we don’t have a rainy summer.