Indianapolis city officials battle over public safety budget amidst tragedy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Democratic Indianapolis City-County councilors and Mayor Greg Ballard are at odds over 2014 funding for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. They both claim they want to fund an additional 80 officers to support the extremely understaffed department and pay for promised raises, but they will not agree on where the money will come from.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and a majority Democratic council cannot agree on funding sources for much needed public safety dollars for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department that is understaffed by several hundred officers. Budget battles continue even amongst the tragic loss of one officer.

“As tragic as these events are, addressing them doesn’t need to become a soap opera. Indy is hurting, and the year is not over,” said Mark Russell, a community activist.

Russell was referring to the loss of decorated police Officer Rod Bradway and an overnight shooting that left Officer Gregory Stevens injured. He claims politics are getting in the way of quick decision making that could better equip the department and show officers the public supports them.

The plan made public by city leaders is the addition of 80 officers and promised raises.

“Mayor Ballard has put together proposals to expand the force and honor police and fire raises right now. It’s the council that has not come up with reasonable alternatives for funding in the long term,” said Marc Lotter, Mayor Greg Ballard’s spokesperson.

Lotter is referring to a decision made Monday night by the council. It approved the expansion of the IMPD taxing district from the old city limits to the Marion County lines. It would add more than a $1 million in revenue that can be used by the police department. Some homeowners have not been paying for police coverage.

But the council again declined the proposed elimination of the homestead tax credit that, with the IMPD taxing district expansion, would have freed up $11.5 million.

Democrat and council vice president John Barth claims taxpayers do not want to shell out more, and they should not have to because they have an alternative. Their proposal would pull several million dollars from the city’s IT Services Agency and the Parking Meter Fund.

“What we’re talking about is $8 million dollars in a budget of $1 billion. All we’re doing is saying let’s put our officers first,” said John Barth, (D) council vice president.

He continued, “This is a painless way of evening the budget out and not putting more burden on the taxpayers.”

Barth said they also want to use Rebuild Indy money, but that was an offer made by Mayor Ballard in conjunction with the proposed homestead tax credit elimination that was voted down.

He said they have compromised and Ballard’s team has said the same thing.

“If we’re truly concerned, we’ll put the rhetoric aside and get our heads together and do it in a nonpartisan and quick manner because it does need immediate attention,” said Russell.

The full council is expected to vote on the budget Oct. 14.