Carmel debt has definitely taken the forefront in last few months both locally and nationally. A recent story by WISH TV reported that the per capita debt in Carmel is almost $12,000 and is 12 times that of the City of Indianapolis. Carmel’s debt stands at just under $1 billion dollars according to the State of Indiana Department of Local Government Finance website. The debt number was submitted by City of Carmel so that makes it hard to dispute or ignore. Frankly, even I am weary of hearing about Carmel’s debt on am almost a daily basis.
There is also the ongoing dialogue among Carmel elected officials as to whether the City will be able to make its debt payment or will the Special Benefits Tax on every residential and commercial property owner in Carmel become a reality. Over the last seven years, I have reviewed mounds of financial documents from the City, Carmel Redevelopment Commission(CRC), and outside consultants, however I have not seen an official independent audit opinion certified by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) issued on the CRC. This means there is no assurance that numbers presented to Carmel taxpayers are accurate according to the standards issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board and the American Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Growing up, I remember hearing that big corporations like General Motors were too big to fail. Well we all know what happened to them. Yes, Carmel is a rich community with sizable revenue. However, is Carmel’s revenue enough to cover our City’s operating expenses and debt payments? I am not predicting financial collapse; however Carmel taxpayers really don’t know what will happen based on evidence that has been provided to date. Yes, an independent audit of the Carmel Redevelopment Development Commission certified by a CPA would give the true picture of where we stand.
Councilor (Sue) Finkam has recently said that an audit of the CRC would be a waste of money. I fail to see that because an audit will bring the truth about the CRC financial position and its ability to make the payments on its massive debt. Carmel taxpayers have a right to know the truth. Mayor (Jim) Brainard was recently quoted in the Indianapolis Star as saying “More importantly transparency and open government is paramount.” Well what a better way to be transparent than an independent audit of the CRC.
Finally an independent audit should end the political bickering over debt, and tell Carmel taxpayers what they deserve to know about a potential tax increase. After all, I don’t think the Mayor and City Council want the outcomes identified in the infamous debt flow chart to become reality.
John V. Accetturo
Certified Government Financial Manager