News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 24, 2013

City Council considering three for consultant

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Three different tax professionals vied Thursday for a chance to become a “financial consultant” to the Terre Haute City Council.

Earl Elliott, a CPA with Sackrider & Co. Inc. of Terre Haute, Ryan Perkins, a CPA with Larrison’s Tax Service of Terre Haute and Michael Williams, a CPA with offices in Bloomfield, all spoke to the nine-member council, making their cases to be hired for the newly-created position.

Elliott, who made news last year when he came to the council with questions after learning of the city’s need for a $5-million tax anticipation loan, was the first to address the council and take questions.

“I’ve already got a lot of information,” Elliott told the council, stating he has studied the city’s audits going back to 2006. “I believe you need to understand where you’ve been that led you to where you are and then figure out from there where you want to go,” he said.

Perkins, 36, emphasized his youth and communication skills when he spoke to the council.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I want to make a splash. I want to make an impact.” Perkins said his tax business handles not-for-profit organizations, but has not done municipal accounting.

“I think communication is going to be the key,” Perkins said.

Williams, who spoke last, has years of experience with government finance as a former professional with the Indiana State Board of Accounts, which audits local governments. With an office in Sullivan, he served for 17 years as the SBA’s field supervisor for this area and often attended audit reviews for the City of Terre Haute through 2010, he said. Overall, Williams worked for the SBA for more than 30 years, he said.

“Everybody’s got a different problem,” Williams said of his experience with local governments, adding he believes Terre Haute is facing a difficult financial problem that may require spending cuts and new sources of revenue to solve.

“It’s going to take a little of both maybe to right the ship,” he said.

According to the ordinance creating the new position, the council’s financial consultant will attend council budget meetings, analyze city financial data, obtain information from city officials, answer budget questions from the members of the council and provide advice or findings to the council on budget matters.

The council has set aside $20,000 to pay for the service this year, an amount Elliott and Perkins indicated they could live with while Williams stated he is “not confident” that is enough in the long run but will work with the council in that regard.

The council is expected to formally vote to select a financial consultant early next month.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes