Mayor: County officers must decide on cuts
While there's been a lot of talk about the so-called fiscal cliff faced by Congress, a local budget battle is also looming.
Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council have yet to agree on a budget for 2013. Indianapolis could be looking at $32 million in budget cuts early next year.
Speaking on Eyewitness News Sunrise Thursday, Mayor Ballard said, "The budget is passed. I put some line-item vetoes in there but as far as I'm concerned, the budget is done for the year."
"They can talk about reappropriating some things maybe next year but as far as I'm concerned, the budget is done. All this talk about Chicken Little, the sky is falling, isn't really true. This is only 14 percent of the county general fund. They have 85, 86 percent of the budget still to work with. City budgets have been cutting for a long time now and have to live within their means. So we're asking them to do that also," he said.
With $32 million in budget cuts to make, the mayor said it's up to county officers to determine what gets cut.
"It's only 14 percent of their budget, so hopefully they'll be able to find those cuts and become more efficient. I would contend that we've had budget cuts and become more efficient in the process," said Ballard, referring to snow removal and the Mayor's Action Center as two examples "that we've improved with less money. So I think they can do that on their end, too."
Two weeks ago, Ballard nixed the council's plan to pay for future police recruitment classes with a one-time payment of $15 million from the Capital Improvement Board. The CIB runs the city's sports venues.
Council Democrats wanted to impose a PILOT or "Payment in Lieu of Property Taxes," on the CIB saying the city spends millions of dollars on police and fire protection during Colts and Pacers games and other events at CIB venues.
"We really believe this hurts public safety," said Maggie Lewis, City-County Council president, speaking to Eyewitness News Oct. 26. "There's no money for training, recruit classes and no raises for law enforcement officers."
The mayor called using a one-time payment to shore up the budget for one year "irresponsible," saying the CIB didn't have extra money to provide.
What Democrats didn't expect was that the mayor would slash $32 million from county agencies. That amounts to a 17-percent cut for the clerk, sheriff, treasurer and six other countywide offices all held by Democrats.
The mayor also stripped all funding, $652,000, from the City-County Council office.
'We cannot do the people's business. We no longer have dollars for attorneys. We can't pay our light bills. We won't have space for our computers and staff," warned Lewis.
On the state's new schools superintendent, the mayor says he expects a cordial relationship with Glenda Ritz, who ousted incumbent Tony Bennett in Tuesday's election. But Ballard doesn't anticipate much change for the city's educational initiatives.
"We expect our charter school incubator to go forward - with 20 to 30 new charter schools opening in the next five or six years. Working with the Mind Trust to get that to happen - all of that is in state law, so those policies will continue as far as I'm concerned," the mayor said.
Ballard also talked about plans for his new deputy of education, Jason Kloth.
"We're looking at education as a whole across the city and where we can help plug gaps and get people where they need to go. Certainly the workforce is something that's very important to me, important to the Chamber of Commerce and so many others. We have to develop the workforce so we continue to thrive as a city, so we'll be working toward that end," he said.