Deming Park Pool and summer festivities update, more on the city budget deficit, why the police pension funds are decreasing and what to do in Terre Haute for the Fourth of July.
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: I have to ask about the debate over where to put the proposed Vigo Co. Jail and Sheriff’s department, it seems like the issue is back to how big it should be?
Bennett: We still need a place to house people when they’re getting treatment. I just listened to a presentation in Indianapolis last week about a couple counties that have mental health and addiction programs in their jails and the inmates that actually came to the presentation said if they weren’t in a jail setting doing this, they probably wouldn’t be doing it. So it reinforces my thinking that yes, you still need to lock people up, but they still need treatment.
Hren: I know you keep mentioning the work you’re doing on next year’s budget, any developments in reducing that deficit without the extra incoming you were hoping for?
Bennett: We’re going to knock at least a $1 million a year off of that so we’ll get it down to $7 million this year for sure if we don’t do anything else. We’re going to be talking to the council about using some other funds to offset that load on the general fund this year and again next year in the budget so I hope we can put an even bigger dent into it than what we did last year.
Hren: A report in the Tribune-Star says the city is getting an advance of $2 million in property taxes… we talked a couple months ago about another cash advance the city needed, so is the city not getting the projected income?
Bennett: No, it’s not that – the county collects all the money on May 10th basically, then disperse it at the end of June to all the taxing entities. And by law you can ask for an advance on that. So we’ve done that every year. And so we’ll do that in the fall also.
Hren: I get the feeling that some people are worried that these advances mean the mayor isn’t balancing the budget correctly and worried about the finances.
Bennett: I guess everybody has an opinion. Of course the people that make the complaints offer no alternative solutions to anything and so we’re doing everything by the book, we’ll be approaching $100 million in the next couple of years in money we’ve lost so if anybody thinks there’s not going to be some bumps in the road, that’s just a ridiculous assertion. But we’ve done a tremendous job because if we’ve not done anything to manage the budget we would have been in the hole much more than $8 million.
Hren: I wanted to see if you had an update on the decreasing police pension funds, this too has resurfaced, why?
Bennett: I think there are some retired officers concerned and there are a lot of rumors out there. First, all the money that goes into those pension funds are property tax dollars and then we get reimbursed from the state later. What we’ve been doing since 2003, before I got here, is paying for the retirement amounts they get in their normal paychecks and healthcare costs and then our pension secretary.
The state law changed so one of the things we’re going to fix is our city ordinance and we’re not going to pay for those healthcare costs or that pension secretary out of there anymore even though that money was coming from property tax dollars. So we’re going to shift that and put that in the police and fire budgets so we’re still paying for it with the same funds, but paid out of a different budget.