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June 2, 2014

Council meeting on TIF delayed

City officials withdraw $1.5M from New Margaret construction account, pool money with other funds

TERRE HAUTE — A special meeting of the Terre Haute City Council has been postponed because of concerns about the city’s tax increment finance (TIF) districts, a city official announced late Monday.

The session had been set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers in City Hall – 30 minutes before the council’s monthly “sunshine” meeting. The TIF presentation is a routine, annual review of the financial health of the city’s several TIF districts.

Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment, which manages the TIF districts, told the Tribune-Star he wanted to postpone the meeting because of the current status of TIF funds. The meeting could be rescheduled, he said.

Lambert has been sharply critical of the Mayor Duke Bennett administration for withdrawing money from TIF bank accounts to “pool” with other city funds. Mayor Bennett said the pooling is permitted by state law, while Lambert said he believes the withdrawals may violate the law.

On Monday, city officials withdrew another $1.5 million in TIF funds from the “New Margaret Avenue Construction Bond Account,” according to documents obtained through a public records request. That bond account was formerly controlled by the Redevelopment Commission but is now under the stewardship of the city controller, Leslie Ellis.

Ellis said Monday the withdrawal from the account was simply part of the process of moving money from the Redevelopment accounts to the city’s cash pool.

This brings the total amount transferred from TIF accounts within the past month up to at least $4.9 million.

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