INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is making his push for the city's priorities for the coming year, proposing his budget before City-County Council Monday evening.
The mayor's budget calls for massive investments to the city with no new local taxes on Indy residents - focusing on education, combatting violence and improving public safety, providing property tax relief and making investments to infrastructure.
A big part of the budget proposal focuses on hefty investments in public safety.
The mayor's plan proposes the city stick to its plan of investing $150 million in anti-violence efforts over the next few years. That money is broken down into three lanes: community investment, police investment and addressing root causes of violence.
For the community, that means $15 million in violence reduction grants annually, up from $3 million. For the police, it means raising starting pay up to $61,000 and offering a $10,000 sign-on bonus for new IMPD officers. Police and city leaders are hopeful that can help fill the 200 unfilled positions with IMPD in addition to hiring another 1,800 proposed by the mayor.
IMPD Chief Randal Taylor calls it a substantial investment for officers and recruiting.
"I mean we're all still fighting for the same recruits. So it may not be the end all to end all, but I do believe that hiring bonus and the opportunities IMPD has to offer officers, I think it's a move in the right direction, I think it'll help us out," Taylor said.
“But just as important as staffing officers to combat violence is preventing the violence from occurring in the first place. And that means continuing to make investment in our response to mental illness and addiction,” Hogsett said.
The budget would also establish an emergency response team made entirely of mental health clinicians and trained healthcare providers who are able to help with nonviolent, mental health or substance abuse related calls. They'll be available 24 hours a day and the team would be in addition to the city's existing Mobile Crisis Assistance Team - or MCAT.
“So you've got a number of issues with mental health, some more violent than others. But for those that aren’t violent, then that other team will be coming along will be a big help. And then, MCAT has had great success in getting people the help they need without having to make an arrest,” Taylor said.
When it comes to fighting inflation, the budget proposal includes a property tax credit.
For those with an assessed value of up to $250,000, homeowners would receive a $150 tax credit. Homeowners with an assessed value of $250,000 to $400,000 would receive a $100 property tax credit.
“It is about what the city could afford, what made sense within the increase in assessed cost that we were seeing this year. In total, it will impact about 92% of homeowners. And for those that are under $250,000 a year in assessed value, it will take care of about the total increased value in their property tax bill,” said Taylor Schaffer, Mayor Hogsett's chief of staff.
To help Indy residents on the roads, the mayor's budget includes plans to invest $1.1 billion in transportation over the next five years, including $849 million for streets, bridges, trails and sidewalks.
The biggest chunk - $387 million - is focused on roads, including $25 million dedicated toward residential roads and improving the roughest of them.
"So those dollars are going to the worst residential streets," said Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Dan Parker.
The proposed budget also includes a proposed $1 million in traffic safety improvements that can go toward traffic signals, bump-outs or crosswalks that can help pedestrian and cyclist safety around Indianapolis.
"We're going to hire, for the first time, a specific traffic safety engineer in the budget that's going to review fatal crash incidents to make sure that, from an engineering perspective, are we making the changes needed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists," Parker said.
Another funding proposal in the mayor's budget will go toward education, offering additional grant funding to the Indy Achieves Program that gets adults back into post-secondary education. It also includes a $1 million investment in the Circle City Readers Program to help young children with reading and tutoring.
Hogsett said this is a balanced budget that can strengthen the city's already strong economy.
"But it's not enough," Hogsett said. "We must continue to build on it. So, I leave you tonight by saying, let's get back to work."