Indiana Cities And Bankruptcy?
More broke cities across the nation are filing for bankruptcy protection.
However, one top official says that's not an option in Indiana. Indiana Association of Cities and Towns Director of Governmental Affairs Rhonda Cook says filing bankruptcy is not a legal option for Indiana cities struggling with deficits. Many Indiana cities have financial woes that were heightened by the 2009 economic downturn, home foreclosures, property tax caps and the decline of many cities' tax bases plus the unpopularity of raising user fees for services.
Cook says while Indiana cities cannot file bankruptcy, they can seek an emergency manager from the state. Cook says the executive of a city or town can seek "distressed" status and petition the state for help. Cook says there are very few Indiana localities that need such drastic help.
Meantime, Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist says his city was in trouble about four years ago. That's when he said it was struggling with a $2.8 million deficit. The total budget was roughly $16.5 million. He says he implemented massive cuts to the tune of $5 million when he took office. Soderquist says as mayor, he had no choice but to cut programs and impose user fees. Soderquist believes that unless cities take responsibility for out of control spending, it's very difficult to climb out of deficits. He says Lake Station still has roughly a $1.8 million deficit that continues to shrink.
In total, Indiana has 121 cities and 446 towns. Cook adds that in the past, state lawmakers have expressed concerns that allowing cities to file bankrupcy could have negative impacts on the state's credit rating.