At the October 9 full Council meeting, the 2017 budget was voted through by a vote of 21-2. I voted for the budget, not because it wasn’t flawed, but because it included much-needed provisions for public safety measures, infrastructure improvements, and a host of other necessities around the city and county. If we had not passed this budget, the budget would have reverted back to the budget we are currently using for fiscal year 2017. Practically speaking, that would not have been an improvement.
My main concern about this budget transcends many individual agency budgets. Of the dozens of budget hearings I personally heard (in the Administration & Finance, Parks & Recreation, and Metropolitan Economic Development Committees), as well as the others I watched on Channel 16 (on-demand, check it out if you haven’t already!), a few concerns became evident. Generally speaking, they have to do with inflating projected revenue and underfunding agencies to create the perception of a balanced budget without the ability for the budget to actually balance during the fiscal year. Here is a further explanation.
- Many agencies have already been operating on shoe-string budgets, and they are funded at the same meager levels as last year’s budget. Many of these agencies have already come back to the Council for additional appropriations because their budgets were insufficient. The Department of Metropolitan Development has already received an additional 1.5M this year, yet the 2018 budget is at the same level as it was last year. In another instance, expenses for Guardian Ad Litem have been over 6M million for over 2 years. This budget allocates a mere 4 million for 2018. With CHINS cases exploding, it seems illogical that expense will be less.
- Revenues seem to be projected in a bullish way, leaving more concerns that agencies will have to come back to the well because top-line numbers might be lower than expected. In the case of ‘Fines and Forfeitures’, there is a predicted 4.7M increase without any additional resources dedicated to enforcement.
- The Sheriff’s Department is a huge concern. On a positive note, the Mayor’s administration has agreed to a vigorous audit. Our hope is that we can use that to make retroactive adjustments to their funding when the audit is complete (Q1 or Q2 of 2018). For more detailed information, watched the Public Safety budget hearings here.
Below is a press release put out by the Republican members of the City-County Council. I agree withthese points as well.
“The Republican Caucus of the City-County Council is proud to have worked with city agencies, reviewing budget projections and numbers over the past 2 months in preparation for tonight’s 2018 Budget Vote. There have, however, been many hurdles to overcome. Namely:
1) A fluctuating Structural Deficit number between $33M & $50M. The number “changes” frequently.
2) Over $16M in Key Infrastructure needs that were left out to make the budget sound “balanced” although new appropriations will have to be introduced early next year to get them paid.
3) Over $6M in reserves – a crucial component of maintaining a healthy city budget – will be drained in this cycle.
4) The Capital Plan to adequately fund road, sidewalk & other infrastructure needs is over $50M below the amount needed to stay on track for repairs – all the while the administration is sitting on over $50M in state returned tax dollars for that very purpose.
5) And perhaps most concerning, is a bloated Sheriff’s Department budget that comes at a time when the Sheriff has decided to no longer operate the APC (Arrestee Processing Center) – plus no longer transport arrestees – but wants to continue to receive our tax dollars at the rate to pay for those non-performed duties. Not to mention the announcement that they haven’t paid, and now owe their CCA contracted dollars for years – to the tune of almost $5M.
For these reasons and more, the Republican City-County Council members are faced with the dilemma of voting YES to pass a flawed budget that is not Honestly Balanced and one that does not adequately address the concerns of Indianapolis taxpayers, or, to vote NO and potentially sidetrack or slow the many good things that the budget will provide to taxpayers and our neighborhoods.”