Mayor Greg Ballard’s $50 million preschool plan in jeopardy

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By: Liz Gelardi

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 23, 2014) - A lack of clear funding has put Mayor Greg Ballard's $50 million preschool program in jeopardy. The mayor proposed paying for half of the program by getting rid of the local homestead tax credit but council did not act to eliminate it before a September 22nd deadline.

Eliminating the tax credit was the only real funding mechanism publicly discussed, now that option is off the table.

The Lilly Endowment has pledged to raise $10 million for the mayor's plan, IU Health has pledged $1 million. The money was supposed to be in the form of corporate matching dollars but the city has yet to come up with any funds for the pre-k plan. Mayor Ballard said without sustainable funding the city stands to lose out on millions in private donations.

Council Vice President John Barth previously told FOX59 he was working on his own plan. He said democrats were in favor of early childhood education but did not like how the mayor wanted to pay for it. Barth said his idea plan would not include any tax increases.

Council President Maggie Lewis and Vice President John Barth released the following statement:

"On August 18th, the Indianapolis City/County Council was proud to pass a proposal for a pre-k pilot program in partnership with the Indiana General Assembly. With this pilot project, nearly 800 Indianapolis children living in poverty will have access to high quality pre-k. While the Council has already funded a pre-k program for 2015, we are committed to seeking an approach to fund pre-k for 2016 and beyond and look forward to working with the entire community and the mayor to seek bipartisan solutions that are proven, and sustainable."

A spokesperson for the mayor said staff members hope to discuss funding options with council leaders later this week. The mayor's office and council democrats will not say what those other options might be. The Ballard administration said it could be possible to use existing revenue to pay for the pre-school programs.