Friday, May 23, 2014

Terre Haute Mayor Accused By Department Head Of Using TIF Monies To Meet Payroll

Terre Haute's director of Department of Redevelopment, Cliff Lambert, is publicly attacking the city's mayor, Duke Bennett, for using money deposited in the city's TIF slush funds to meet payroll. Mayor Bennett disputes that claim, arguing that his office is merely complying with a TIF reform law passed by the state legislature this year that shifts oversight of TIF funds to the city controller. State Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), the sponsor of the legislation, defended the new law:
State Senator Pete Miller, R-Avon, is the author of that law. He says the intent of the legislation is to reign in redevelopment departments and add accountability.
“We appreciate the work of redevelopment commissions but at the end of the day they’re still appointed officials and we’re dealing with millions of dollars of tax payer money,” Miller says. “We want to have someone that the tax payer has elected to make the call at key points in the process.”
But Terre Haute is one of 21 second class cities in Indiana where the city controller is appointed by the mayor, not publicly elected.
Interestingly, Mayor Bennett did not deny that TIF funds were being tapped to make up payroll shortfalls, but he says the funds at the end of the day will be used for their intended purpose.

Frankly, I have no problem at all with cities accessing TIF funds when it has shortfalls in funding basic city services. Yes, paying your city employees is a core function of city government. Handing out money to campaign contributors for supposed economic development activities should hardly be considered a priority. As fellow blogger Pat Andrews has pointed out, the City of Indianapolis has repeatedly tapped other funds to cover shortfalls in the City's TIF funds to the tune of tens of millions of dollars without complaint from anyone. Indianapolis now diverts upwards of $120 million annually in property tax funds to the TIF slush funds that are passed out like candy to developers who are stuffing money in the politicians' pockets. Indianapolis could easily meet its public safety funding obligations if it accessed its flush TIF funds, but then it wouldn't have as much money to pay out to campaign contributors. Instead, our mayor and city council want to force taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets, which demonstrates just how much contempt they have for the people they supposedly represent.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to whether you're implying that we really ought to elect comptrollers? I kinda doubt anyone has any idea what they do (land airplanes at the municipal airport?) so even if they are elected it seems likely that you get a democratic one in a democratic town (etc.) and whomever actually gets elected simply hires folks who (knock on wood) actually does the work and might plausibly know how to accomplish that) while simply providing a slating fee to the local party.

Pete Boggs said...

Anyone remember the property tax "solution" known as 1/2/3 or changes made in school funding; which could free those funds for abuses of treasury leveraging?

Why did the country's biggest spenders abandon TIFs in California? Could it be the economic viruses propagated by faux-gressives affects them too, between their rank & file?

Anonymous said...

Terre Haute is on the edge of financial collapse. The so-called "fiscally conservative" Republican mayor operates in every way the same as his Democrat predecessors. In other words, spend-spend-spend.

The TIF districts administered by the local Redev. Commission is the same disgusting crony operation as every other city. Money flows to those with the political connections and away from other taxpayers and businesses. The well-connected make a ton of money and everyone else suffers.

The best thing that could happen to both these groups, the city and the redevelopment commission, is for all of them to finally run out of other people's money and then leave us alone.