Monday, March 12, 2012

Budget Problems for Public Safety?

I noted in the last of my blog entries on the 2012 City-County budget, that there were some time bombs in it (see "2012 Budget Is Done").  Well, looks like notice is being paid to an 'emergency' in public safety.  Television news has reported on matters arising in the March 5 meeting of the Criminal Justice Planning Council (view the meeting for yourself in the WCTY archive, WRTV, WISH,  and FOX).  Council President, Maggie Lewis, has called an emergency meeting of the Public Safety committee for Wednesday, to discuss the budget shortfalls with Marion County Sheriff John Layton, Public Safety Director Frank Straub, and City Controller Jeff Spaulding.

A few folks have asked me about these claims, given that I followed the budget so closely for the past few years.  So, I slogged through the minutes etc from budget time, and I will recap what I can.

First, a few notes about the Criminal Justice Planning Council (CJPC) meeting.  The Marion County Sheriff's budget issues was an agenda item.  Sheriff John Layton talked about the same things he discussed back during the 2012 budget hearing (see the minutes from the September 7, 2011, Public Safety committee meeting) - unfunded mandates for Wishard services and the City-County building security contract with Securitec - amounting to a $12 - 15 million shortfall annually.  In September, Sheriff Layton spoke also of the nearly $10 million owed to Corrections Corporation of America, who runs Jail II.  These were due to ballooning costs for inmate medical care suddenly being charged by Wishard in 2010 and 2011, and not covered in the contract with CCA.  This backlog was taken care of by Prop 2011, 365, which appropriated $9.9 million to be paid to CCA for the outstanding balance.  In addition, a $1.5 million payment to the pension fund was fully addressed at budget time. Still the 2012 budget held unfunded mandates for Wishard charges, the Securitec contract, health insurance for employees, and contractual raises that would account for Layton's $12 - 15 million shortfall.  Rather than waiting for a bailout that may not come at the end of the year, Layton is considering pulling his staff from Wishard and stop transporting those in jail to the Courts, saving overtime payments and better matching his resources and obligations.

Now, some of what went on at the meeting was pre-arranged and may very well be motivated by party politics.  Nonetheless, Sheriff Layton's budget story has not changed, and he was up front back in September about all of this.

IMPD's budget may be different, however.  At the CJPC meeting, it almost seemed that Dr. Straub was piping up with new information, so as to not be left out of any re-budgeting efforts.  He said he might have to shut off the lights in some districts by the end of the month to compensate for an immediate hole of $10 million in character 3 appropriations.  Now, character 3 covers 'other services and charges', as opposed to personnel costs.  Straub did not give specifics other than saying the FOP wants new cars as half of the police cars have more than 100,000 miles on them.  If you know me at all, you know I am unsympathetic about a perceived need for a 3 year vehicle replacement plan - especially when times are as tough as they are right now.

The 2012 budget for IMPD seemed to be 1% less than the 2011, but, as I noted at the time, previous budgets were supplemented at the end of the year, making the cuts more like 5% (see "IMPD Budgets Show 5% Cut").  As I noted at the time, this did not give me much heartburn since it appeared that the IMPD budgets were padded, as they never seemed to spend as much as they requested.  Still, there was the upcoming Super Bowl, with IMPD costs of unknown magnitude (and still unknown), as well as a -$4 million placeholder that, to my knowledge, never was settled before the passage of the budget.  These placeholders were insidious, and are the 'time bombs' I was referring to in my posts about the budget.  These were the total amounts of cuts that each department or agency had to include in their budget.  But, many kept the negative number in their budget, without specifying whether personnel would be cut or if contracts would be curtailed or some other allotment of the cuts would be structured.  This left the questioning by Councillors quite impotent.  They would review the adequacy of the items that appeared fully funded.  And when attention was drawn to the large negative placeholder, there was no discussion about the realistic impacts on the budget items before them.

I did review the minutes of the September 21st meeting of the Public Safety committee, which was the hearing for IMPD's budget.  At that time, Straub did mention, on questioning by Councillor Aaron Freeman (page 7 of the pdf), that there was a $3.3 million shortfall in character 3.  The most jarring item, though, is found on page 11 of the pdf. The Council President, Ryan Vaughn is noted as saying
that IMPD has loaned over $32 million to the CIB on a contingency basis.  In addition, Director Straub has gotten over 120 grants, but these grants are contracts, and some of them come with unfunded mandates of over $2 billion.  He said public safety cannot be run on a contingent basis.
That's real money in exceptional sums.  There is a need to find out more about this topic, for sure.

The meeting of the Public Safety committee is this Wednesday at 5:30 pm.  The CJPC voted to have a budget solution proposal for Public Safety by the time it meets in April.  We will see what comes of all this, but we need to keep in mind that the City does not print money nor have the authority to raise taxes more than the State Legislature allows.  A solution may be in the offing, as $10 to $20 million could be pried from fund balances this year.  But, little fat, if any, is left for 2013, which is said to have a $50 - 70 million shortfall looming - and I can believe that.  Structural changes to the City's budget may be needed soon, if not this year, as the fund balances are slim, the rainy day fund is gone, the consolidated downtown TIF can't be relied upon a 2nd time, and the stimulus funds are no longer being offered.

Options are limited.  We shall see what comes of the attention being paid to the Sheriff's and IMPD's budgets.


katzmandu said...

When I was working on Todd Woodmansee's campaign this is something we actively made a point of, while our opponent (Ben Hunter, at the time public safety chair) said there wasn't an issue.

Anonymous said...

Your doing the Lord's (or deity or your choice) work in reporting on this.

The CIB and TIFs need exploration and unmasking, as surely as we need to know the birth, educational, health and political records of the incumbent and would-be Presidents who can send our young people to war.

We're in the mess we're in because we assumed way too much for way too long.

used car dealerships in indianapolis indiana said...

When I was working on Todd Woodmansee's campaign this is something we actively made a point of, while our opponent (Ben Hunter, at the time public safety chair) said there wasn't an issue.

Anonymous said...

Why the 1.5 million payment to the pension fund? I thought the state took over the arrears on the police and fire pensions.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 10:38 - that was just the pre-77(or pre-70?)pension. The rest of the pensions are still City-County responsibility.

Goldsmith stopped paying on that one and Peterson couldn't catch it up. Then Peterson got the Legislature to raise the COIT to cover the pension, which got him thrown out of office. Which gave Ballard plenty of cash to balance his first couple of budgets, after the Legislature took over that pension among other liabilities.

Anonymous said...

come city-county councillors,you need and the taxpayers are requesting a true audit,not a smoke and mirrors audit.a honest audit by a outside audit company.where did all the money go and who has blidging pockets,frank straub ,mayor ballard and alot of councillors need to go.just not doing the leadership qualities,motivation get up and go methods,no energy council.only 3-4 i know of can possibly do their jobs.the rest have alot of talk and no action.this city is in a mess,leadership wise,do not know how to set-up a budget.they councillors,if checked do not have a personal budget they live by.simple fact if you do not know what your expenses are and spend more than coming in you are done..this is where the CITY OF INDPLS IS AT THIS POINT,JUST SIMPLE MATH SPENDING MORE THAN COMING IN..I AM ASHAMED OF SOME OF THESE COUNCILLORS WHO HAVE NO BACK BONE.ASK QUESTIONS GET RESULTS,THAT IS WHAT YOU WERE VOTED IN TO DO...GET WITH THE PROGRAM..OR LOSE YOUR CITY BOND RATING..

Anonymous said...

naptown residents are not stupid,we know what is going frank straub,mayor ballard all of his cronies,and lets get professional people not a bunch of jokers,who cannot lead.if you cannot do a budget,you have a very seriou problem..i would bet not one official really knows how much is spent each day,week,month or quarterly.and this is leadership,you can tell us anything do you think we believe you.just one question,WHERE IS ALL THE MONEY GENERATED DAILY,WEEKLY,WATER COMPANY GONE OLD PARKING METERS GONE,GRANT MONEY.I PERSONALLY INVEST MY PERSONAL MONEY IN COMPANIES THAT PAY 10-22 PERCENT INCOME.I WOULD BET YOU HAVE KNOW ONE IN CITY GOVERNMENT THAT KNOWS HOW TO GENERATE INCOME FOR THE TAXPAYERS,WHAT ASHAME.FOR THE CITY.

Anonymous said...

If the Sheriff's Department concentrated on what they are suppose to REALLY do, their funding shortfall will shrink.

Anonymous said...

What a perfect storm is brewing downtown with regard to Frank Straub, his agendas, the MCSD and Layton, IMPD and financial woes. It feels like we are back in the days of Jack Cottey. The good old boy network is still alive and kicking. The divisive nature between MCSD and IMPD continues..police officers are frustrated with a system that is ambivalent and a public that is just plain distrustful. How many non violent offenders are incarcerated in Indiana? In Indianapolis? Why? Is it because we don't have resources for preventative or diversion programs or community supervision? Or do they need to fill those beds downtown at MCJ and Jail 2, run by CCA? Personally, I feel the complexity of the situation is not being addressed systematically as a whole. Instead agencies are divided and fractured, unfocused and mostly influenced by politics.
It is a mess that will not soon go away. Staub and his cronies, along with Ballard and Layton should put all other considerations aside and focus on public safety and lowering our debt to CCA. Reducing recidivism is complex at best. But it is one focus that needs to be addressed to relieve budget issues.
I salute you for reporting on this issue...most Indianapolis media agents tend to keep the distance between this issue and what they put out there. We need to shed light on these city leaders and report the truth about what they really are doing..and what they refuse to do.