Carmel council to initiate independent review of city’s debt


The Carmel City Council announced plans at its March 4 meeting to spend up to $20,000 for an independent review of the city’s debt.

Council President Tony Green said the review isn’t in response to decisions or strategies made by the city’s existing financial advisors but rather an opportunity to bring in a fresh set of eyes who can review Carmel’s position with objectivity.

Among the reasons for instigating the review was the council learning in late 2023 that water and sewer rates would need to rise in part to allow Carmel Utilities to cover payments set to begin on debt acquired nearly 20 years ago to fund system improvements.

“We got hit with a balloon payment that most people didn’t know was going to happen after the election, and as councilors you (frequently) get questions about the debt,” he said.

The city’s legal department is reviewing a scope of work agreement for the review, Green said, and a contract has not yet been signed.

“We’ve targeted somebody that we think would be really good and is completely independent of who the city already has on contract,” said Green, who did not disclose who the city is looking to hire for the review. “

Councilor Matt Snyder said hiring an independent firm to conduct the review will lead to greater transparency. He said he is aware of other governing bodies using their legal counsel to hire a financial group to conduct a review, a process he does not support.

“The only reason I can think that they do that is because then it becomes privileged information,” Snyder said. “We intentionally, I believe, did not do that because we do not want whatever the findings are of this independent audit – good, bad, indifferent – to have any protection behind it. It will be a public document, not hiding behind attorneys.”

Councilor Jeff Worrell described the independent review as a “good idea” and a way to make residents feel comfortable about the city’s financial position.

“It’s really good to have everybody on the same page,” Worrell said. “I’ve been an advocate of trying to explain Carmel’s debt for years, so I welcome this, and I would love it if everybody felt good and proud of what their city is doing.”

The review will be funded through the city council’s budget. The council did not announce a timeline for the review, but Green said the findings will be released to the public.