Ballard unveils 2014 budget, cites public safety as priority

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INDIANAPOLIS – Mayor Greg Ballard said public safety is priority number one as he unveiled his 2014 budget proposal to the City-County Council Monday night.

He said the plan helps reduce the estimated $55 million budget shortfall and increases public safety funding, in part, by increasing taxes for some Marion County homeowners. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is short an estimated 685 police officers and nearly half of the force is eligible for retirement. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has said Indianapolis is in a crisis situation because of the manpower shortage.

“Our communities are living in an environment of lawlessness and disorder, and that breeds violence in a larger picture,” said Councilor Zach Adamson.

“The biggest thing I hear when I talk to the police officers is they’re tired, they’re just tired,” said Councilor Jeff Miller.

The mayor said his budget prioritizes spending on police, fire, public safety and criminal justice with greater than 90 percent of general fund revenue dedicated to those agencies. IFD is projected to save $1 million through operational efficiencies. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is reduced by $5 million to reflect reduced county revenue and anticipated savings in arrestee medical care.

“Due to a lagging economy, we will continue to hold the line on spending and avoid an increase in income taxes,” said Ballard. “This budget reflects our community priorities. It maintains our competitive business environment and promotes our continued growth.”

Ballard wants the council to make more funding available by eliminating the homestead property tax credit to boost revenue by $11.5 million. The proposal has been rejected twice.

“Those at the property tax cap won’t pay any more, and it makes poor people subsidize rich people for their property taxes. It’s probably not a good thing,” said Ballard.

The mayor has also proposed expanding the IMPD property tax district to include every homeowner in Marion County that relies on IMPD–not just homeowners who are living within the old city limits. The change would generate another $1 million in ongoing funds. This district was not expanded at the time of the police/sheriff merger.

“We don’t have enough recurring funding to balance the budget which includes the IMPD budget. It may be that we’re doing things this year just to get recurring funds in place for IMPD so we don’t have to have these discussions again,” said Miller, who said he is supporting the two tax changes.

The overall budget, which includes self-funded, dedicated-tax-supported, and outside grant funded agencies, remains flat at roughly $1 billion.

“Earlier this year, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and I announced a plan to return 156 officers to patrol duty and hire two new recruit classes of at least 50 officers in each of the next two years,” said Ballard. “This budget supports those efforts and, most importantly, provides the funding to pay and equip these officers in the future.”

The council is expected to vote on a final budget in mid-October after continued discussions. State law requires that it be passed prior to Nov. 1, 2013.

Other details of the mayor’s plan are as follows:

  • $14.5 million in new revenue from expanding IMPD property tax district and elimination of Homestead Tax Credit
  • $5.9 million in budget reductions
  • $8 million in savings from anticipated healthcare cost increases that never materialized due to delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and traditional premium increases
  • $3 million by having agencies absorb the cost of contracted raises through savings in existing budget
  • $1.4 million through implementation of fuel surcharge for IMPD and IFD take-home vehicles
  • Use of $25 million in existing fund balances

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