Juggling finances is never easy and it gets even more complicated when it involves millions of dollars.
The city of Terre Haute needs to borrow, but officials can’t agree on the best option.
There’s a 10 million dollar cash hole in the city’s general fund. Last week, the council rejected a six million, interest free loan from city redevelopment. Instead, officials approved a four million dollar tax anticipation warrant loan and that has set off some continuous debates.
“I just felt like we’re offered 6 million dollars that we don’t have to pay interest on, that would be something we would most want to take advantage of,” George Azar said.
Councilman at large George Azar is one of the three city council members in favor of borrowing from city redevelopment to help Terre Haute’s finances.
“It’s not something we’re not going to pay back, it’s going to be paid back and it’s been happening year after year for as long as I can remember,” Azar said.
Azar says hearing from economic development director Steve Witt at last Thursday’s city council meeting sold him on his vote, saying borrowing the money won’t cause problems for redevelopment.
But former redevelopment director and county and city council member Cliff Lambert has a different opinion.
“I am absolutely and utterly opposed to it,” Lambert said.
When Lambert held city council positions over a decade ago, the city use to freely take from tif or tax increment financing funds. Back in 2014 he took action at the statehouse and was able to place restrictions on their ability to do so.
“If they need money, they need to borrow it, and they need to ask the city council to borrow it on their behalf to the redevelopment commission,” Lambert said.
Even so, Lambert still isn’t on board with the city borrowing.
“When I left in January 2016 as director of the department of redevelopment, we had 21 million dollars worth of projects in the downtown TIF district and on the east side, those projects have been on the drawing boards for the better of three years, very few of them have gone forward, very few of them can go forward if the city continues to take those necessary funds and use them to cash flow the city,” he said.
This ordinance may be presented again to the council, but it will have to be at a lower amount than borrowing 6 million dollars from redevelopment as the original ordinance was voted down, it cannot be brought up again this year.