Indianapolis mayor unveils budget plan to close $55 million gap

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INDIANAPOLIS – Mayor Greg Ballard is calling his plans to reduce a $55 million budget deficit fair, in the wake of heated debate on how to keep our cities safe.

The mayor’s 2014 budget plan is proposing among other things, two tax hikes, potentially affecting tens of thousands of Marion County property owners.

One issue includes expanding the Police Special Service District. Since the county law enforcement merger that created IMPD in 2007, the tax district never expanded beyond the old city police area. Ballard proposed property owners in all of Marion County (except for Lawrence, Speedway, Beech Grove and Southport) to pay their share.

Homeowners with a $100,000 home in old city limits, and not at the one-percent cap, would see a 70-percent property tax cut from $365/year. Homeowners in outlying areas would pay the tax for the first time. The tax increase would be $114/year, expected to generate $1.3M for IMPD.

“I think this is a matter of fairness that everybody is paying for IMPD protection,” said Marc Lotter of the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office. “The mayor’s not going to create a fiscal cliff by using one-time dollars to support ongoing operations.”

Ballard is also proposing to raise $11.5 million to fund IMPD operations by eliminating a local homestead credit. Property owners, on average, would see an increase of $22/year. It would not impact homes already at one-percent cap.

City County Council leaders believe property taxes will be a tough sell. Instead, they hope to tap into existing city sources to fund for public safety, their main priority.

“My general philosophy is you have to look at every rock before you even think about raising taxes,” said John Barth, City County Council Vice President. “We simply do not have enough IMPD officers to do the job we need them to do. We’re going to do everything we can to get some more money for the IMPD.”

City leaders said public safety already represents 90-percent of the general fund. The mayor hopes to set in motion a fuel surcharge for take-home law enforcement vehicles, generating an estimated $1.4 million.

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