Committee approves public safety tax hike

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A City-County Council committee voted 7-4 Wednesday on a proposal to increase Marion County's income tax to fund public safety.

Seven Democrats voted in favor, with four Republicans voting against the measure. The proposal will advance to the full council.

The original proposal called for eliminating the county homestead tax as well as an income tax hike. That was split into two separate proposals.

The move stems from growing concern about the city's crime rate.

Earlier this year, the IMPD Staffing Study Commission approved a plan to add 400 officers over four years. But it would cost $28.5 million a year.

The commission said federal grants and phasing out the homestead tax would help, but also suggested raising the public safety tax.

The tax increase would mean an annual cost of about $100 for the average Marion County taxpayer. The goal is to build a police force close to 1,800 by bringing in 80 recruits this year, and 100 more officers for the next four years.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard released the following statement after the committee vote:

"Tonight's vote by the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee marks a good first step, but provides $2.5 million less for IMPD than my plan originally proposed and fails to address the root causes of crime.  It is my hope that Councilors in the next few weeks will join leaders across the city in supporting our plan to make high-quality pre-K affordable to children from low-income families in Indy."

Council President Maggie Lewis added:

"Tonight, the Public Safety Committee voted to support our IMPD officers and to take steps to keep our Indianapolis neighborhoods safe. I know that each councilor's vote was based on listening to residents of the city who want action to address the on-going crime wave we have endured for the past two years. While residents want action to support IMPD, they also want to ensure that we strive to keep their property taxes low - and that is why the Homestead Tax Credit will be considered as a seperate proposal. I am hopeful the Mayor will work with the Council on opportunities for compromise."