The proposed food and beverage tax increase, the final 2017 city budget numbers, a city deficit update and the regional economic initiative.
On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute’s 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: Legislative session is wrapping up, any word on the food and beverage tax?
Bennett: We got it through the Senate, the key is getting it on the governor’s desk. The whole purpose of that tax is for our convention center project. We’ve got a private partner that’s willing to come in and help us develop a hotel and then the convention center would be built, additional parking facilities and Larry Bird’s museum. He wants to be able to put all his stuff together in one place for people to be able to view it. The tax would help us with the long term operations of that.
Hren: Let’s get an update on the budget, where did the city leave off in 2017 and where are you now?
Bennett: We finished 2017 with a positive balance. We’ve had three straight years of balanced budgets. But we still have a little bit of a deficit to deal with. We’ve reduced that general fund deficit from $8.9 million to $3.7 million. We expect to cut that in half again this year and it will be totally eliminated next year.
The only action we need to take in 2018 is take an appropriation from our street department, the state decided to cut that about $288,000 – that’s fine, that’s no big deal. We have about $700,000 of a positive cash balance.
Hren: What was the final deficit of 2017?
Bennett: Well we didn’t have a deficit. We ended up having a deficit in two of our golf courses, and the general fund shows a positive, but that’s because we extended a loan over. But it’s true deficit, is -$3.7 million, but ended the year with a $1.2 million balance. We just need to keep knocking off away from that deficit.
Hren: You talked about repaying those loans too?
Bennett: We take out one, a tax anticipation warrant we take in January and pay in December. The other is the redevelopment loan that extended beyond the end of the year, we’ll pay $3 million of that back in June and only use $2 million the rest of the year. So we’ll reduce our borrowing by $3 million this year.
Hren: There is also a loan with the county too?
Bennett: Well that’s a bond anticipation note they took out, I guess you can consider it a loan, but they bought the bond versus us doing it in the open market. We’re paying back about $2 million of that this year and we’ll have it all paid off ahead of time. It’s not due until 2021.
Hren: The city council chamber is working with a five county economic initiative. Sometimes collaborating will pool resources and better attract jobs, have the partnerships been formed yet?
Bennett: We’ve been looking at other models across the state. Everybody tells us we need to operate regionally. So West Central 2025 will be an effort to get the surrounding counties to work with Terre Haute and Vigo County on a more regular basis. More project oriented to bring money, resources, private development to west central Indiana that we all benefit from instead of working in our little silos. It’s a long term commitment.