Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is laying out his spending plan for next year. He unveiled his 2015 budget Monday night at the City County Council meeting.
He says it is a balanced, comprehensive approach to addressing city needs, but some don’t think it goes far enough, especially in hiring police.
Ballard’s more than one billion dollar budget proposal is about $35 million more than last year’s spending plan.
Ninety percent of it is for public safety, which he calls the city’s top priority. It includes raises for fire, police, and sheriff’s deputies and 50 new IMPD recruits.
But, he says investments for public safety means drawbacks elsewhere.
"This budget funds what we need to fund, but it does not include money we don't have," said Ballard. "It does not include any money for Rebuild Indy 2, so instead of budgeting $150 million on streets, sidewalks, parks, and neighborhood improvements in 2015, this budget only contains the $51 million we have on hand."
While the Mayor’s budget calls for hiring 50 officers next year, IMPD predicts about 45 will leave. Ballard wants to hire 280 police over the next four years by increasing the public safety tax and eliminating the local homestead credit, but that’s not included in the spending plan.
He is asking the council approve those separately, along with an expansion of early childhood education. The proposals were introduced during Monday’s council meeting.
"The time is now to act together to make our city safer and help guide thousands of children to better lives," said Ballard. "As this body (the council) begins its deliberations on these initiatives, I hope you will come together to do what is right for our children, right for the public safety of our citizens, and right for the future prosperity of our city."
Democratic Councilor Joe Simpson says he won’t support a tax increase and wants the Mayor to find other funding sources. He thinks the city needs to divert fewer property taxes to Tax Increment Financing funds to finance downtown development and instead use that money for police hires.
"I think the downtown TIF is at a point right now where it's pretty solid. Sure, it could do some more growing and stuff like that, but I think if you are that desperate, I'm saying let's slow down some of the growth downtown and take some of that tax base and move it back into the regular base budget and get some police," he said. "That ain't going to harm nobody."
The Mayor unveiled his budget just hours after the city honored the life of Jake Laird, an IMPD officer who was killed in the line of duty ten years ago.
Police Chief Rick Hite says it’s important the city find ways to hire recruits who are willing to sacrifice and serve the way the way Laird did.
"We need a minimum of 100 a year," said Hite. "We have to move quickly. As we are talking right now, our officers are out there fighting the good fight, protecting our city. Again, this is the tenth anniversary of Jake Laird's death, he gave his life in the line of duty. It's important we don't forget that."
Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby says the Mayor’s plan to hire 50 new officers is a start, but says it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
"It doesn't move us down the road, at all," said Owensby. "It doesn't get us where we need to be. Again, we are not asking for the moon here. We are asking for what we once had. We are not asking to make this the biggest police department Indianapolis has ever seen. That was a quote (by the mayor) in there tonight. We are not asking for that. Even hiring 500 in the next five years doesn't get us there."
Budget hearings get underway this week and Ballard is holding a public meeting on his proposed anti-crime plan, Wednesday.