The Indianapolis City County Council agreed on a 2014 spending plan that includes hiring 80 new police.
“This deal is not perfect as it delays long-term fiscal questions to 2015, but it will provide the necessary revenue to hire new police officers and continue making the necessary investments that make Indy a great place to live, work and raise a family," said Mayor Greg Ballard.
To hire officers, the budget includes $6.9 million from the Fiscal Stability Fund, $2.4 million from the rainy day fund, and spending $5.7 million in funds leftover in an escrow account to pay possible claims stemming from the transfer of the water utilities to Citizens’ Energy Group.
"It is not sustainable," said City County Council President Maggie Lewis (D). "We are tapping into one time dollars, however, we look at the budget every single year. So, after tonight, we pass a budget and we start the conversation tomorrow looking at 2015."
"I've said this all along, either we reduce services or we look at increasing taxes," Lewis added. "The council chose to increase one tax, but then not entertain both taxes. It's a compromise. We move forward after tonight."
Controller Jason Dudich says once the council decided against phasing out the Local Homestead Tax Credit, the city had to come up with one-time savings to fill the gap. Eliminating the credit would have resulted in a net savings of about $8 million.
"We found funding sources that at least can sustain for 2014, the services and fund additional officers," said Dudich. "But, we need to start having the dialogue soon on how we are going to fulfill 2014's obligations, as well as what we see in 2015 with ongoing revenue sources that will basically replace the ones we've identified, thus far."
Councilor Marilyn Pfisterer (R) supported the budget deal, but said it is far from ideal.
"What we are agreeing to tonight is for a one year stint. That money is only for one year," she said. "You can't go back to those funds. (Eliminating) the homestead credit it would be year over year over year," she said.
But, Councilor Christine Scales (R) who was one of two votes against the budget, says keeping the homestead credit was important.
"I know from speaking to my residents that if we had passed every single one of those taxes, it would have been way too much of a burden on our residents and I just didn't want to go there," she said. "All the fee increases we're talking about that have come up and are still coming up in the future, with these taxes, I thought, we can't do all of this."
"When the Mayor really wants money for something, he finds it," Scales added. "I just believe if there was enough pressure put on the administration, that the officers were upset, the public was upset on their behalf, that that money would be found because it is found for other things."
The adopted budget means 80 new officers will be hired next year, 30 more than initially proposed by Mayor Ballard.
"Because they get hired in 2014, we will not see them working or on the street until at best late 2015 and at the same time we are continuing to lose officers," said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 Vice President Rick Snyder. "If citizens believe that based on this plan they will have more officers on the street in 2014, that's not correct. They are going to have less because we are going to lose those officers during 2014 and they are not being replaced on the street."
"If our hope is put a band aid on 2014, cross our fingers and hope that everything works out by 2015, we deserve better leadership than that," he said.