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May 8, 2014

Readers' Forum: May 9, 2014

TERRE HAUTE — Consultant makes sense for council

Taxpayers Association of Vigo County is in support of the City Council having a financial consultant. The financial consultant is able to obtain and analyze the fiscal information and then condense into terminology or an explanation that is meaningful to the council in answering questions about fiscal feasibility on a variety of matters that have been brought before the council.

An example is the $5 million tax anticipation warrant that has an interest rate of 2.01 percent. The interest that taxpayers, like yourself, are paying is in excess of $100,000 annually. Even though this information is transparent, the implied rate was perceived as about half of the rate and thus was approved by the council. Lack of information, miscommunication, opaqueness — the list can go on and on back and forth. A financial consultant retained by the council in earlier years could have asked questions, obtaining specific information and projected what this loan would be costing over its lifetime, if a year or five years.

Budget time is quickly approaching. Think about this — Terre Haute City Council has nine elected people, all with various backgrounds and one financial consultant that was retained in 2013 for the first year, which was not to exceed $20,000. The budgeted amount for services contractual in the controller’s budget in 2013 was $185,000, subtract the $20,000, it then became $165,000. The controller’s office has staff to assist with the flow of money in and out of the city and a contract for a financial consultant at $125/hr. The council has one financial consultant that is at a cap to assist them in sound fiscal decision-making on behalf of their voting populace.

Another item to think upon we, taxpayers, are paying more in interest on a loan than we are to assist elected officials in making complex decisions regarding our tax dollars.

The Taxpayers Association does not see the financial consultant as a waste of taxpayer money, as it has been suggested. The association views it as a wise investment on behalf of the City Council. The council believes having its own financial consultant at important meetings has been a great help in asking financial questions to help them structure the city budget. It saves time by eliminating uncertainty and brings clarity to complex financing quickly.

The cost of this service is of the utmost concern to the council, but members feel it is a worthwhile expense. The Taxpayers Association agrees with their opinion and supports this expenditure.

The Taxpayers Association of Vigo County is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan, member-based organization that is privately funded. We do not receive any funding from city or county municipalities for our organization.

— Kimberly Norris

Executive Director

Taxpayers Association of Vigo County

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