Ballard: Efficiency key to closing budget gap
2013 will soon be here and it looks like the City of Indianapolis may go into the new year without the City-County Council passing a new budget.
Mayor Greg Ballard wants a balanced budget and tells Eyewitness News the city may be able to find cost savings in an unlikely place.
Shortly after he took office in 2008, Ballard consolidated the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department. He says the city is a safer place now than it was then.
"Well the murder rate the last two years has been below 100. You've got to go back 20-plus years to see something like that and it looks like it will be again this year, so looking at that is pretty important. Some things are up, some things are down, but people tend to look at the murder rate as the barometer, so that's important," Ballard said. "But I will tell you, the budget crunch, the fact that we are holding up right now, when you look at other cities across the nation that are laying off hundreds and hundreds of police officers and firefighters, we haven't done any of that and I don't intend to do any of that."
But the mayor will still have to work with a Democratic council majority to come up with a budget for the city. Eyewitness News asked Ballard why the budget debate has become political and if he thinks it should be that way.
"I think you have to ask the other side on that one, because we never really did it like that. The reason we are where we are right now is that I don't want a fiscal cliff in two or three years and the budget that was passed would have put us in a fiscal cliff situation in two or three years," Ballard said. "We just can't have that. We've worked too hard to get to the point where we are now where we have $80 million in a fiscal stability fund, where we have general obligation debt just going down over the last three years and it looks like it's going to be unbelievable in another three years, based on where it was when I took over."
The two sides in the debate are going to have to bridge a $35 million gap. Ballard says public departments need to be more efficient to close that gap.
"I think there are efficiencies to be had in public safety and criminal justice. I've always said that. As soon as they all get in a room together and talk about it, who's going to be doing what, then we can close that gap and find out what it really is. But, I would suggest to you that parks had to be efficient, inspections had to be efficient, DPW had to be efficient and we have never asked the Department of Public Safety and criminal justice to be efficient," Ballard said. "We just give them the money. That what we do, we just give them the money because they're public safety. I think that has to stop."
As he continues his second term, the mayor is also beginning to think about his legacy and, if he has his way, it will be something that can fundamentally change the city's future.