Mayor will present $1 billion budget, ask council to consider public safety plan

mayor greg ballard
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By: Liz Gelardi

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The proposed 2015 budget is worth nearly $1 billion dollars and would use $28 million from the city’s general fund. Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to hire more police and pay to expand preschool programs is not included in the budget, instead the City-County Council will consider separate proposals.

A group of council Republicans introduced a proposal to raise the public safety tax and eliminate the homestead tax credit. If any tax hikes are passed the council will have to tack those items on to the budget. The proposal would raise the public safety tax from 0.35% to 0.50%.

One surprise came in the area of property tax revenues. The city had budgeted $306 million in expected property tax revenues in 2014, but it ended up collecting $339 million. City officials said about $30 million dollars in property tax revenue came from cracking down on people who falsely claimed the homestead dedication. The mayor’s communication director said this one-time money could not be used to hire more police officers.

“Well 90% of the budget is going to public safety and criminal justice a lot of the tax revenue that the city receives comes in specialized buckets that can only be used in certain areas,” said Marc Lotter, communications director for the mayor.

The 2015 budget projects Indianapolis will collect $318 million in property taxes and $256 million for income taxes. In 2014, the city collected $339 million in property taxes and $238 million for income taxes.

The mayor’s budget proposal comes with a few catches. He wants to tie the public safety tax to any proposed commuter tax. If a commuter tax is introduced and passed, it would negate any increase in the public safety tax. The tax would then be would be rolled back to 0.35%. The mayor’s spokesman also said the city will only apply for federal COPS grants if council votes to increase the public safety tax.

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