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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute's Bennett On Sewer Bond, Budget Update

Duke Bennett

The city budget is on track to finish out the year without a deficit, Margaret Avenue construction is on schedule, downtown parking meter task force is being formed and events that helped shape Terre Haute in 2017.

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: What do we need to know about the city budget and how it’s taking shape as we hit the new year?

Bennett: Good, once again we're moving in the right direction. We had a balanced budget for this year, and we're coming in under budget for the general fund. Next year we'll have a balanced budget again. One thing we did, in regard to the reduction of our budget this year... we made all those changes in November and they'll be finished up in December, but what it's allowing us to do is take another step forward in eliminating that deficit in the general fund, but we're not contributing to that deficit anymore - three straight years.

The state has not approved the 2018 budget yet, they should review it by the end of the year and we'll get it back by the end of January.

Hren: The $70 million dollar sewer bond is the next phase in the city’s long term control plan, but it was withdrawn due to the amount of the request – how is the city moving forward?

Bennett: We have to move forward with the project. So we will close on a bond in January and that will do all our design work on the next phase, then we'll put it out to bid, then go back to council and borrow what we need to build it.

What we asked them before, here's a ceiling... just go ahead and approve them together and when we get the bids back, we'll only borrow what we need. Well, some of them didn't feel comfortable with that.

Hren: There are reports on the city looking into the possibility of parking meters and how they might not only help add some revenue, but also help regulate downtown parking? Has the committee been formed?

Bennett: The committee hasn't been formed yet, not sure we can pull it off before the holidays. ISU has appointed a couple people, downtown Terre Haute, of course the city and we want to get a couple more interested parties. It's all about gathering information. We're going to do a survey of all the downtown business owners, we'll look at ISU's perspective and really get a handle on all that before we even decide if we're going to do parking meters.

It's a good problem to have. Things have grown and improved so much downtown over the past ten years that we're having an issue with parking.

Hren: Is there any dialogue regarding the convention center expansion or any further interest? Does the county need to ask Indiana legislators for any innkeeper or food and beverage tax increases?

Bennett: Not that I can talk about publicly yet, but we are working with some folks and I am certain we will put something together. Location, size have not been determined yet.

I think at some point we want to revisit the food and beverage tax. So that may be something we talk about this session. We would love to put those funds directly into the C.I.B. so we can do community projects, the first one being a convention center. But we still need to get that part of the legislation done (at the Statehouse) so it's available to us locally.

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