Mayor Ballard presents $1B budget to City-County Council

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard presented a billion-dollar budget to the City-County Council Monday night.

The $1.034 billion proposal increases the public safety budget, but makes cuts in other areas like money for street and sidewalk repairs. The departments that would see increases include: Police, Fire, Parks, and Code Enforcement, while the budget would cut money from DPW, the prosecutor's office, and the mayor's office.

Mayor Greg Ballard says the priority in the 2015 budget is public safety - police, firefighters and criminal justice.

"We gather this evening once again to lay out a roadmap for the future of our great city," he said in council chambers Monday. "This budget places the greatest amount on our top priority, public safety."

Specifically highlighted in the budget - how many officers should patrol our streets and how the city will pay for them. IMPD Chief Rick Hite says more manpower is essential, especially with continued growth in the Marion County community.

"372 square miles, over a million people, 1,500 police officers. That says it all," Hite said.

Mayor Ballard's proposed budget calls for hiring 50 new officers next year. But with so many officer retirements each year, police say they want even more.

"The fact that we're hiring 50 next year in the budget is a step in the right direction, however we're going to lose 50 next year to attrition," said Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby. "We can't do the proactive stuff. We can't do some of...take some of the runs that we're taking. We're going to have to decide what's important here because we're not getting the help we need to get."

The number of officers on the streets could increase even more under another, separate proposal by the mayor. It's not included in this budget, but was introduced to the council for consideration. That plan calls for hiring 90 officers next year. It also would fund a preschool program, to help at-risk youth.

"The time is now for us to act together to make our city safer and help guide thousands of children to better lives," Ballard said.

To pay for the plan, the Homestead tax credit (not the Homestead exemption) would be eliminated. Also, the public safety tax would go up by .15%. That would cost the average household making $42,600 a year an extra $5.32 per month.

Police want to make sure that money would go directly to hiring officers. They say what we see on our streets, how safe we feel in our homes, is at stake.

"We're out to save lives," Chief Hite said. "We have to do that with numbers."

"Mayor Ballard has asked the Council for three years now for funding to hire more officers, and for the last two years the Council has not gone along with that recommendation," said Marc Lotter, the mayor's communications director. "The recommendation the mayor talked about a few weeks ago, and again is talking about tonight, is the recommendation of the Council's IMPD bi-partisan staffing creation. This is a commission they created to recommend funding for it and their recommendation is what the mayor is putting forward today."

The City-County Council will now take both proposals under consideration. They have to approve a budget by mid-October.

Ballard will host a town hall meeting Wednesday (August 20) at Southport Presbyterian Church at 7525 McFarland Blvd. to talk about the crime and early childhood education initiatives he proposed to council Monday evening. The mayor will be joined at the meeting by IMPD Chief Rick Hite, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and Deputy Mayor of Education Jason Kloth. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

View the budget presentation
Read Mayor Ballard's budget