Carmel candidates continue discussion over debt

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — Next week, voters in Carmel will choose their next mayor. It could be long-time incumbent Jim Brainard. It could be his Republican primary challenger Rick Sharp. City debt is one of the big issues separating the two men.

Wednesday morning, Brainard released a report he calls “confirmation” that his financial plans for the city are working. It is a report for the Carmel Redevelopment Commission [CRC] that the city’s corporate tax revenues are increasing. It concludes Carmel will have $32 million more in assessed value than was projected last year. The report is an analysis of the TIF [Tax Increment Financing] districts in Carmel.

A statement from the Mayor’s office says this analysis “was prepared by an independent accounting firm, Umbaugh & Associates. The actual property tax records show the total TIF value of $1,113,000,000 which is higher than the projected $1,081,000,000 projected on May 29 of 2014 — a difference of $32 million. There are more than 700 properties in the TIF areas.”

The statement goes on to say “Our assessments are growing, our tax revenues will be growing and our property taxes will continue to be the lowest in Indiana for a city of our size or bigger … it’s good to see our fiscal plan is working.”

Rick Sharp released a statement declaring “(I)t would appear that the Mayor has unintentionally made our point on our behalf” about city debt. Sharp cited calculations from Wabash Scientific, a city planning consulting firm in Carmel. His conclusion hinges on a calculation of $17,524,082 in CRC debt obligations in 2014 compared to $19,162,421 in those debt obligations in 2015. The statement from Sharp said that creates a nearly $1.6 million increase in the TIF deficit.

The statement from Sharp also said, “(W)e note that, the Mayor’s press release never actually said there was enough TIF to repay CRC debt. Instead, he simply stated that [assessed value] growth was $32 million.” Sharp called that an attempt by Brainard to “deflect scrutiny” because the mayor “never actually said there was enough TIF to repay CRC debt.”

In a report on Tuesday, we discussed the role of the debt debate in the coming primary election.