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September 13, 2013

City Council removes some street parking near ISU

TERRE HAUTE — Parking for Indiana State University students and city finances were the hot topics at Thursday night’s Terre Haute City Council meeting.

More than an hour of discussion, including significant public comment, emerged in response to two measures put forward to remove some free, on-street parking in the area of ISU.

One measure eliminates on-street parking on the south side of Eagle Street on the north side of Hulman Center between Eighth and Ninth streets. The second measure eliminates on-street parking on both sides of Chestnut Street between First and Third streets.

More than a half-dozen ISU students asked the council to reject the proposals, put forward by the university. They worried about the loss of free, street parking near ISU, stating that on-campus parking passes can cost as much as $149.

“I had the same problem with ISU when I went there 40 years ago,” said Councilman Bob All, R-2nd.

Despite All’s comments and those of the students, the council approved the Eagle Street no-parking zone request on a voice vote without opposition. However, they pushed back until June 1, 2015, the effective date of the Chestnut Street ordinance.

Spring of 2015 is when ISU expects to begin hosting track and field events at a planned, new facility on the west side of U.S. 41, said Bryan Duncan, director of capital planning and improvements at ISU.

Duncan told the council the university would not object to moving the date of the second ordinance back to spring 2015, to coincide with those events. He also said lower-priced student parking is available in lots farther from the heart of the campus.

n The council also approved without opposition salary ordinances for the police and fire departments that include a 2.5-percent pay raise for next year.

The police and fire department salaries make up about 72 percent of the spending in the city’s critical general fund. The raises will cost the city a combined total of approximately $329,000 in additional salary payments next year, according to Leslie Ellis, city controller, who reported those figures to the council last week. That does not include payroll taxes or public employee retirement contributions, she said.

Meanwhile, it’s still unclear whether the city’s other employees can expect the same 2.5-percent raises next year. That will not be known until the city has a better handle on 2014 revenues, Mayor Duke Bennett told the council.

At the start of the more than two-hour meeting, Earl Elliott, financial consultant for the City Council, said he expects the city to end 2013 with a general fund cash deficit of about $600,000. That will be in addition to the city’s outstanding $5 million tax anticipation loan, he said.

Elliott also said the city’s average annual deficit since 2008 has been approximately $3.4 million when only “recurring revenue,” as opposed to one-time transfers or short-term loans, are considered. He projected a general fund deficit of about $4 million on Dec. 31, 2014.

In comments following Elliott’s, Bennett reminded the council of the effect of the state’s property tax caps on the budget. The caps will cost the city $9 million this year and have cost the city $35 million since 2009, he said. “We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem,” Bennett said.

The mayor also said the city will seek another $5 million tax anticipation loan in 2014 after paying off the existing loan. The need for such annual loans should be eliminated over the next three to four years, he said.

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

 

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