Reaction mixed on proposed Indianapolis anti-crime tax increases

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Mayor Greg Ballard's crime-fighting plan is stirring debate. On Wednesday, the mayor proposed hiring 360 more officers over the next three years, funding a voluntary preschool program for low-income kids, expanding the teen curfew and pushing for harsher penalties for drug crimes.

But some question his funding plan for adding officers and preschool as it includes two tax hikes.

Paul Battles is an Indianapolis truck driver. "I am concerned about paying more in taxes. We're already paying so much in taxes now," he said.

The mayor wants to max out the public safety tax, raising it from 0.35% to 0.5%. That would raise a total of $27 million a year, with $15 million of that going to the City of Indianapolis and the rest to the county and excluded towns.

It would cost an Indianapolis resident making $50,000 a year an extra $75 a year in taxes.

The mayor also wants to eliminate the homestead tax credit (which is different from the $45,000 state homestead deduction taken off the assessed value of a person's primary residence.) It would raise $7.5 million a year.

According to the mayor's office, 60% of homeowners would be effected by eliminating the credit, paying an average of $1.84 a month more in taxes, or about $22 a year.

"That's under $10 a month, seems reasonable," said Stephanie Mann.

Mann, an IPS teacher, said she particularly likes the preschool program since "we know the younger we reach (kids), the better."

But Teresa McMahon, who's part of a single-income family, said as much as she worries about crime, every penny counts.

Teresa McMahon

"I'd be willing to pay more taxes on food, restaurants or groceries," she said, noting she can cut back in those areas but not on the other taxes.

Restaurant owner Jeff Edwards said any time there's a tax increase, he feels the pinch.

"In the short term, it makes an impact but in the long term people get used to and it becomes part of their budget," Edwards said. "But running cities and municipalities come at cost, and we have to understand that if we want safe neighborhoods and good streets." He added, "If we're not willing to accept a little bit of an increase on our part to make that happen, what can we say when crime increases and all these things happen."

Marvyn Ashmore said while he didn't want to see rates go up, "I've been paying taxes all my life, so what's the difference?"

"I see that we have the officers patrolling and covering a lot of areas to date, but the crime still keeps going on," said Battles, still not convinced.

The City-County Council needs to approve both funding changes. A mayoral spokesman said they will be introduced separately from the budget and if approved this year, would take effect January 1, 2015.