Friday, May 9, 2014

Trib-Star Reports Terre Haute Hires Financial Consultant

From the Terre Haute Tribune-Star:

It was debate night for the Terre Haute City Council.

During its regular May meeting, the nine-member body spent about an hour thrashing out the pros and cons of spending city money to hire a financial consultant to advise it.

Last year, also after significant debate, the council appropriated $20,000 for a consultant to assist with budget matters. This year, after at least as much discussion, the council approved spending $10,000 for the same services.

The Taxpayers Association of Vigo County got the ball rolling Thursday night by submitting a letter to the council in favor of hiring a consultant. A consultant helps council members understand the budget better, saves time and “brings clarity to complex financing quickly,” the letter stated.

In response, All said he is able to receive financial information directly from the City Controller’s office. “In the future, if we all have any questions, let’s ask,” he said. The lines of communication with the city aren’t “fully open” but are not as bad as many people believe, he said. “Common sense tells us, if we work with [city officials] and they work with us,” he said.

Several councilmen, principally Garrison, Mullican and Nation, have been pushing for a consultant, saying they are concerned about the city’s budget, especially in light of consistent deficits in the “general fund,” which covers much of the city’s day-to-day costs.

The council approved a $4.5 million tax anticipation loan in 2012 to help cover the general fund. In December, Mayor Bennett requested – and the council approved – a $5 million loan for the same purpose.

“Maybe, just maybe, if we’d have spent $15,000” on a consultant in 2011 “we might not be in the mess we’re in today,” Mullican said.

The council has not formally hired a consultant for 2014. Last year it hired Sackrider & Co., a Terre Haute CPA firm, for the work.