September 9, 2014

Council Raises Public Safety Tax

The Indianapolis City County Council is raising taxes to pay for more police.

Members voted 19-10, Monday, in favor of increasing the public safety tax from 0.35 percent to 0.50 percent.

Doing so will raise about $29 million dollars and is part of Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to hire 280 more police by 2018.

The average increase for residents is just over $60 more a year.

Republican Councilor Robert Lutz says he doesn’t like the idea of raising taxes, but says the staffing issues for IMPD are so dire that something had to change.

"We're at the point where people and officers are having to make runs where they have a dangerous situation and one or two officers shows up and that is less of a deterrent than if eight or 10 officers show up in that situation," said Lutz.  "We have to protect those ladies' and gentlemen's lives as well as our citizen's lives."

Democrat Mary Moriarty Adams agrees. She too isn't a fan of the tax hike, but says it's necessary.

"Do I like it? No, I do not," she said. "But, it is necessary on behalf of our public safety functions and agencies in this city."

Republican Christine Scales voted against raising the tax, not because she doesn’t believe there is a need for more police, but because she says she can’t trust how Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration will spend the money.

"History tells us that there is no commitment, there hasn't been thus far on the Mayor's part to make sure money that's available will go to where it's needed. I don't believe that we can trust that an increase tax will go where it's needed now," said Scales.

Now we are burdening our residents to pay for something that we should have been incrementally paying for in the last seven years and it hasn't been done and I don't think we should do it now when we had the opportunity to do it before and we haven't done it."

Ballard says passing the public safety tax without eliminating the local homestead tax credit means about $2.5 million less than he wants for IMPD.

Ballard wants to phase out the credit to help pay for a $50 million dollar program to make pre-k more affordable for 1,300 low income families.

A portion of the revenue from rescinding the credit also would go to paying for public safety.

Some councilors are concerned with eliminating the homestead credit, because it will mean some families will have to pay more.

The Mayor’s Office says about 60 percent of homeowners would will pay about $22 extra a year if it’s phased out.

Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Bill Owensby addressed the council, Monday, and had some harsh words for the way its members and the Mayor's office prioritize police staffing.

"Your constituents are going to be increasingly victims of crime because we can't do our job.  We cannot do our job because you (the council) are not doing yours," he said.  "You and the 25th floor (Mayor's office) are not doing your jobs and who is going to suffer is the people who vote for all of you and the 25th floor and I'm going to make sure that they know that."

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