City leaders debating where to spend "found money"

Council Democrats want to put the newly-found money toward the public safety deficit.
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A multi-million dollar mistake means Indiana counties will be getting a lot of money back, as early as Monday.

Marion County alone is expected to receive more than $41 million, but Democrats and Republicans are divided over what to do with the money. A state computer error put millions of dollars back in the hands of local communities.

Metro police and the Marion County Sheriff's Department face a collective budget deficit of more than $30 million. Democrats say the newly-found tax money should go to pay that debt, but Republicans say not so fast.

"I think this is the perfect opportunity to address the shortfall with the Marion County Sheriff's Department and IMPD," said City-County Council President Maggie Lewis, a Democrat.

"I want to make sure we hold that money in reserve," said Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican.

In an email to Lewis, minority leader Michael McQuillen wrote, "There certainly has been no decision to put future years' budgets in harm's way by using the recently-announced state tax distribution to plug this year's holes."

"I'm not suggesting we throw it all to public safety. However, since public safety is job one, this is our opportunity to shorten that gap," Lewis said.

With veto powers in his hands, Ballard will have the final say. Right now, he's saying public safety is overspending, and that has to stop.

And with a $70 million deficit looming for the city next year, any money found now should be saved for then.

"We're not closing libraries, we're not closing parks, but next year, we were looking at that sort of thing. Now, maybe we're not," the mayor said.

City council leaders say discussions have already begun for a compromise. It will likely be a priority at the city's next Administrative and Finance Committee meeting April 17.