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November 4, 2012

FLASHPOINT: Big Brother may be watching but he’s not telling the truth

What would you think if you were a new financial officer for a governmental unit and the State of Indiana gave you a budget of $619,218? Would it be reasonable to think your government could spend $619,218 or less for governmental services? Would it be reasonable to think the government could spend more than $619,218? Would it be reasonable to think the government could spend $501,686?

The State of Indiana, through its Department of Local Government Finance, set the 2012 budget for West Terre Haute at $619,218. I was a newly elected Clerk-Treasurer on Jan. 1 and I thought this meant we could spend $619,218 or less on providing governmental services for the citizens of West Terre Haute. This summer I found this was wrong. The Department of Local Government Finance only financed $501,686 because of what it calls “circuit breakers.”

The Department of Local Government Finance set our tax levy (the amount of property tax revenue) at $481,400. This amount was decreased by circuit breakers of $117,532 to a new figure of only $363,868. This means we should spend $501,686 or less during 2012.

This is very difficult to explain to Town Board members, police, and citizens. You would think our “big brother” the Department of Local Government Finance would not want to do this again for 2013. You would think that our budget expert, DLGF, would want the citizens to be told correctly what is going to happen financially! Wrong! The Department of Local Government Finance wants to tell the citizens of West Terre Haute they can have a budget of $644,572. However, the DLGF will only finance $527,040 of this amount. Why shouldn’t the citizens be told they only have a budget of $527,040 for 2013?

West Terre Haute is not the only governmental unit with problems because of “circuit breakers.” This is a major problem with many governmental units in Indiana. I always thought it would be great to have a “big brother.” Am I wrong once again?

— Jim Mann, Clerk-Treasurer

Town of West Terre Haute

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