Council passes budget deal to add 80 new IMPD officers

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and the Democratic-controlled City-County Council have reached a budget deal according to mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter and Council Vice President John Barth.

The council passed the agreement Monday night by a 26-2 vote.

"I am pleased we came to a bipartisan agreement that serves our entire community," said Council President Maggie A. Lewis. "A budget that improves public safety and protects taxpayers is a win for all our residents."

"Throughout the budget process, the Council majority and Mayor's Office worked together," said Barth, "From the beginning, the Council's goal has been to support IMPD officers while minimizing the impact on taxpayers. We were able to do both with this budget."

Lotter said the deal provides for a balanced budget, the hiring of 80 new police officers and police pay raises, although less than was contractually obligated.

Lotter said the funding involves a $6.9 million loan from the city's fiscal stability fund, $2.4 million from the city's rainy day fund and  $5.7 million left over in the escrow account from the Citizens Water deal.

"This deal achieves the major goals of the mayor," Lotter said. But it does come in the final hours before Monday night's vote.

Barth said of Democrats, "We got the best deal we could given the resources we had."

Initially the mayor proposed eliminating the local homestead tax credit to help fund public safety needs.  His office said eliminating the tax credit would provide roughly $15 million.

The Democratic-controlled council opposed the move, citing the impact on taxpayers, even though the mayor's office insisted the average homeowner would pay roughly $20 more a year in taxes.

Democrats came back with several other funding options including using Rebuild Indy and/or parking meter revenue.  The mayor objected to using one-time monies for ongoing needs. 

Jerry and Charlene Laudig, who live on the near east side, do their best to keep things up, but they do worry about crime. They're glad to hear the city is hiring more officers.

"They can watch what's going on in the neighborhood and put a stop to it," Charlene said.

The council also introduced a proposal to create a bipartisan commission to determine the appropriate number of police officers for the city and review funding options.

While the deal calls for police pay raises, the FOP has said it would consider litigation if the package wasn't acceptable.  Under the deal, the city will offer IMPD the same compensation plan it offered IFD, which its membership votes on this week.

It calls for a 3% pay raise as of July 1st (instead of January 1st) and across-the-board flat pay raises of roughly $1,200 in 2014 and $1,400 in 2016 - amounts Lotter said on average about two percent.

This is the second year IMPD is being asked to take less than contractually obligated because of budget issues.

"We now have the second time in the history since we've been doing raises that the contract isn't honored," said FOP Vice President Rick Snyder.

Snyder says while 80 new officers is a start, the force will still be hundreds short and those officers are being asked to do more.

Republican Chris Scales is just one of two councilors that voted against the budget and it was because of the police contract.

"I felt it should have been a priority and that there should have been more diligence," Scales said.

But others said the city just couldn't afford the full raises.

"I'm a big supporter of the police force, but we had to do some belt tightening," said Council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen, a Republican.

Snyder says while the budget vote may be over, the battle over raises is not.

"Listen, what we're talking about is simply doing what we negotiated in 2010 in good faith with the mayor. It's honoring your commitment, that's it," Snyder said.

He says while FOP members have authorized the FOP to take legal action, they'll study their options before making a decision.