The Terre Haute City Council approved a budget for the 2018 fiscal year in a meeting Thursday night.
The council cut about $350,000 from the budget at the meeting, in addition to Mayor Duke Bennett’s proposed cuts. The total amount cut from the original budget proposal now amounts to roughly $2 million.
Council President Karrum Nasser says they looked at spending from the last three years to determine where cuts could be made without negatively impacting residents.
“Streets are still going to be paved, the sidewalks are still going to be repaired, and public safety wasn’t going to be affected by that,” Nasser says.
Nasser says rather than removing larger sums from specific departments, the city removed smaller amounts of funding from various areas. The cuts include reducing the salary for a vacant electrical inspector position and limiting the number of repairs in local cemeteries.
But while the council approved the budget unanimously, there are still a few issues with the city’s finances that remain unresolved.
“Streets are still going to be paved, the sidewalks are still going to be repaired, and public safety wasn’t going to be affected by that.”
Nasser says the city’s golf courses are operating at deficit of about $500,000, and the council is seeking ways to reduce those numbers.
“There needs to be a fine line for having a quality of life aspect to our city,” Nasser says. “But at the same time, we need to curtail those deficits and hopefully reduce them in half.”
But Nasser also says he knows it will take more than just budget cuts to make that happen.
The council also considered a request for a $70 million bond from the city’s Department of Sanitation for improvements to the city’s water treatment system, but Nasser says that issue was again tabled without a vote.
Nasser says they’re tabling the request because of a “credibility issue.”
“When we did our wastewater and started our long-term control plan, we were told that we weren’t going to need to raise our sewer rates for 20 years by the administration,” Nasser says. “Then last year we were asked to raise them.”
The original cost of the project was supposed to be $42 million and Nasser says the increased cost should have been discussed at the same time as that raise in rates. He says the council will have to keep discussing the issue before any decisions are made.
Nasser wants to make sure the increased cost has nothing to do with other issues the city is facing, including an FBI investigation into its wastewater treatment plant and a lawsuit against the city alleging a pay-for-play deal for sludge-to-diesel conversion.
“The administration thinks it’s just coincidence that we are having an FBI investigation and a pay-for-play lawsuit against the administration, and having the cost of the project double,” Nasser says. “But I think we need to reassure the taxpayers. Either it is [a coincidence] or we need to dig and try to get that project closer to the $42 million mark we were promised last year.”
The city council will continue its work toward eliminating an $8 million deficit left over from previous years of overspending at its meeting on Nov. 9.
Mayor Duke Bennett did not respond to requests for comment.