Budget & Transparency

Here is a link to my LTE, published in the Indy Star 9/19/2016.

Full text:

At the Sept. 12 council meeting, budget battle lines were drawn between parties. Proposition 283 approved “an official intent” to borrow up to $75 million of general obligation debt. While not a bond issuance, it allows departments to be reimbursed for spending. Included expenses will range from voting machines, the E-911 system, a backup generator and road maintenance.

Republicans voted “no” for a variety of reasons, but I speak for myself here. Bonding $20 million for roads when we have $52 million in the bank ($39 million of which is mandated by the state for new infrastructure) does not make much sense.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s 2017 budget is not radical. It levies no new taxes, but makes no real cuts, either. The messaging surrounding the budget touts big savings and fiscal conservatism. I applaud the sentiment, but it is incongruent with several underlying facts. Some departments would spend less, but largely because of the following factors: loss of sizable chunks of federal funding, using the county option income tax rebate to fill shortfalls and prop up fund balances, moving capital expenses out of the annual budget and transferring expenses to a different department. The Indianapolis Fire Department sees a $7 million increase, yet $8 million of new bonding is proposed for new fire stations.

The city’s financial landscape is incredibly complicated, and I do not argue the validity of these measures. But the structural deficit is not addressed in this budget, except for using a one-time cash infusion to kick the can down the road, which is hardly a solution.

This is not about politics as usual, and I’d just as soon leave the rhetoric out of the conversation. Citizens deserve transparency in messaging, even when the situation is not ideal. Perhaps the mayor requires more time to examine options to solve our long-standing budgetary issues. If this budget buys the city that opportunity, then he should just say so. Our citizens are smart, and transparency is only a good policy when actually put to use.

Colleen Fanning

City Council Councilor, District 2