Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2012 Budget Is Done

Well, its been going on since August, but the 2012 budget is finally completed.  Here's some of my impressions of it.

1) Between the sale of the sewer utility and the parking meters, and the near depletion of the rainy day fund last year, there is a $35 million hole in the revenue stream for 2012 as compared to 2011.  That money is never coming back.  Instead of dealing with it by meting out significant budget cuts in an election year, the Ballard administration chose, and the Council endorsed, robbing the consolidated downtown TIF district fund of $38.5 million.  This is not sustainable and next year we likely will be forced to pay the piper.

2) While the administration continues to repeat the phrase, "no layoffs", the truth is different.  The budget cuts demanded of the Clerk's Office will generate about 10 layoffs - and the Criminal Justice committee of the Council was so informed prior to their vote to move the budget to the full Council with a 'do-pass' recommendation.  Clerk Beth White requested an increase of $76,623 over what Controller Jeff Spaulding recommended.  This was still a decrease of over $300,000 from the previous year.  White testified that her employees tended to be single mothers earning salaries at the low end of the City's wage charts.  Add to that the fact that the Clerk's office and its workflow is critical to the jail overcrowding solutions, and you have a stance by this administration and the Council Republicans that is more than difficult to comprehend.  Let us hope that this cut, with real life ramifications for real people, was not generated out of party politics. 

3) The 'grown-up' award goes to the Public Safety Committee.  I have to disclose that I am an ardent supporter of the Council being an equal branch of local government with the Mayor and the Courts.  I really hate it when the Council takes on the role of Mayoral lapdog, instead of constituent watchdog.  That said, the Public Safety Committee, chaired and led by Ben Hunter, rolled up their sleeves and slogged through the numbers, asked hard questions, demanded changes, and made the budget for its departments and agencies all that much improved over what had been submitted by the Ballard administration.  Members of that committee are Republicans Hunter, Freeman, Pfisterer, Scales, and Vaughn, and Democrats Adams, Oliver, and Brown.
An additional 'grown-up' award must absolutely go to Sheriff John Layton, who stated his case and then worked with that committee to head his budget into the right direction.  He got the pension fully covered and is working toward solutions for his other, large, shortfalls.  And, he is doing so in an effective and cooperative manner that will bring results for the citizens and taxpayers of Marion County.

4) Parks is a mess.  Stuart Lowry has been a disaster as Director.  From comments during the budget debate it became clear that the budget for Parks still contains the -$1 million cut as a line item, instead of having been allocated to specific items.  Really?  Don't sit quietly and accept the cut if you can't make the decisions of where those cuts will end up.

5) Last but not least, I think there are a couple of time bombs in this budget that will have to be defused as 2012 moves along.  I also do not think that is any way to make a budget.  The Coroner's office is still using wishful thinking to hope for an additional $400,000 in revenue to come from who knows where.  The Controller's office is content to simply 'moniter' the situation as 2012 progresses.
There is still no rough, much less reliable, estimate of the cost of the Superbowl to Indy's taxpayers.  At least the Council has demanded that estimate be delivered some time in November.  Credit for that goes to President Ryan Vaughn and Councillor Brian Mahern.  The IMPD budget took a half million dollar hit this year in unbudgeted pre-superbowl activities.  Nothing has been budgeted for them, IFD, Code Enforcement, or Public Works for 2012.  That is not realist and the actual cost to taxpayers should not be held from the public.  Obviously, the November 8 election is a motivating factor in the reluctance of the Ballard administration to be clear and transparent in this matter.

For the vote on the City-County budget, the Assessor's budget was pulled out because Councillor Adams and Councillor Lewis' spouse work for that Office.

The final vote on the 2012 City-County budget (sans Assessor) went primarily along party lines - 16 yeas and 13 nays.  Democrat Brian Mahern joined all 15 Republicans in voting for the budget.  Lone Libertarian Coleman joined the rest of the Democrats in voting against the budget.  The Assessor's budget vote was 22 yeas, 5 nays, and the two abstentions.  Voting nay were Coleman, Gray, Minton-McNeill, Oliver, and Sanders.

The individual municipal corporation budget votes were interesting in who voted against them.

The airport budget was passed 26 to 3.  Councillors Coleman, Mansfield and Sanders voted no.

The CIB budget passed 19 to 10.  Voting no were Republican Councillor Hunter, Libertarian Coleman, and Democrats Bateman, Brown, Evans, Gray, Dane Mahern, Mansfield, Oliver and Sanders.

Health and Hospitals budget passed 27 to 1.  Councillor Coleman was the sole no vote.

The Library budget passed 25 to 2 with Councillor Nytes abstaining.  Councillor Hunter had left the meeting to attend to an emergency.  Councillors Brown and Coleman voted no.

The IndyGo budget passed 24 to 4 (Hunter absent), with Brown, Coleman, Oliver, and Sanders casting the no votes.

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