Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mahern Posts Letter To The Editor RE: Tully's Column

First, you have to know it is there, and then you still have a bit of poking around to find it online...  But, today's IndyStar has a letter to the editor penned by Councillor Brian Mahern in response to Matt Tully's recent column (see my take on the column in my last post, "You Can't Fix Willful Ignorance and Greed")

Here's Mahern's letter:
In his Dec. 21 column, Matt Tully sets out to examine possible threats to Indianapolis successfully competing with suburban counties for taxpaying residents. Instead of exploring possible solutions to the serious and vexing crime problem facing our city, Tully instead settles for a full-throated personal attack against me.
He accuses me of political partisanship and failing to offer alternatives to the Ballard administration’s policies and proposals with which I have I disagreed. The fact is I have raised legitimate concerns regarding tax increment financing economic development policies that I believe were overused by the last two Indianapolis mayors, one a Republican and one a Democrat. My concerns about TIF are echoed by fiscally conservative Republicans in Hamilton County.
Mayor Ballard proposed balancing the 2013 budget on the backs of homeowners by raising their property tax bills by more than $8 million, these being the very people Tully suggest we are in fierce competition with the suburbs for. I suggested instead that the Capital Improvement Board should finally pay something for the large amounts of public safety resources used during the conventions and Pacers and Colts games held in CIB facilities. That seemed only fair to me. In response, the CIB threated a lawsuit, citing it lacked money to share with the city, only to turn around and give yet another $10 million to the Pacers on top of the previous $33.5 million it forked over during the last four years.
It is not helpful to give short shrift to the crime problem in Indianapolis. We all need to thoughtfully discuss the impact of crime and the importance of public safety funding. My now months-old invitation to Tully to join me for a chat still stands. All he needs to do is pick up the phone and return my call.
Brian Mahern
City-County Councilman

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Can't Fix Wilfull Ignorance and Greed

Its very unfortunate for Indianapolis that Matt Tully has an opinion column in which he can toss about misinformation and press for more of your tax dollars to be spent on his neighborhood's pet projects.  And its very unfortunate that he does that, not by providing well reasoned arguments, rather, by maligning one of the few elected officials still willing to stand up for sensible government that will not break our economy and who presses for sustainable funding for police, fire, libraries, schools, and other basic services that benefit all of us, rather than the few.

Tully is in love with the government giving your tax money to private developers and campaign donors, and he really evidences no concern with what that does to the public's ability to finance basic services.  He stood in favor of the Mass Ave TIF, that robs known tax proceeds to pour money into an area already building and thriving.  He stands in favor of the well to do in his own neighborhood and those neighborhoods nearby, to decide how THEIR tax dollars will be spent, while all the rest of us chumps can chip in to make sure his neighbors get police and firefighters to their door whenever they dial 911.  He cries a good game about the schools - but lets see where he sends his child.

But, the lowest point is reached when he maligns Councillor Brian Mahern, one of the last, if not the last, elected official willing to speak publicly of our need to be cautious about the use of TIFs, and who will acknowledge aloud that the more tax revenues we corral inside TIFs, the less money we have to fund basic services.

The pressure to frivolously spend, to ignore that each decision has pros and cons to be weighed, to follow the lead of those whose only goal is to feather their own nests, that pressure is great and has caused most who truly understand the impact of TIFs and corporate welfare to stand down and only whisper the truth among known allies rather than spread that truth further.

The sky is blue.  Water is wet.  And, like it or not, TIFs have consequences.

I had thought Tully was a reasoning person.  But, he has proven me wrong.  He just wants you to foot the bill for his basic services so he and his well off pals can give thier's to developers to make their neighborhoods more fun.

The old myths - that tax money before a TIF is established continues to flow to the schools and police, and that the bankrolled developments will spur free market development - continue to be pressed by those like Tully.  Meanwhile, the Mass Ave TIF and the Mid-North TIF stand on its head, the traditional use of TIFs to help struggling neighborhoods pull out of great need.  Now TIFs are to aid the well to do and to boost areas that are already seeing the free market work.

In the age of tax caps, unexamined TIFs and their unfettered use, will grind on our City's economy.  Then folks like Tully will leave because there are even fewer police and firefighters to cover our whole county, fewer tax dollars reaching the library and the schools and IndyGo.  And, instead of TIFs making his neighborhood more enticing to executives, it will make everyone more fearful of living anywhere in Marion County - fearful of crime as well as fearful of providing a very weak start in life for their children.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Council ReIntroduces Mayors' Budget Cuts

The last meeting of the full Council for 2012 will be Monday night.  Much is on the agenda, and much is to be introduced.

Postponed from last meeting due to two Democrat absences are Props 290, 316, 362, and 372.  Prop 316, which amends Council Rules to include information that should be provided for consideration of new or expanded TIFs, is the sole proposal that cannot be vetoed by the Mayor.  Prop 290 limits fraternization between certain employees of City-County government, in wake of the revelation that former Public Safety Director, Frank Straub, has a new main squeeze.  Prop 362 simple adds an additional purpose to which RebuildIndy funds may be appropriated - for recruiting and training new police officers and firefighters.  Prop 372 is the Democrat Council district maps, which must be passed in this calendar year to fulfill State redistricting laws.  It is clear that Prop 372 will be vetoed by the Mayors, but it will be interesting to see if Vaughn wants to fight over fraternization and recruit training options.

Being introduced are three of particular interest.  Prop 447, sponsored by Council President Lewis, would restore the full $652,654 to the 2013 Council budget - including funds to pay for any legal challenge to the competing Council district maps.  On the other hand is Prop 450, sponsored by Minority Leader McQuillen, which would restore only $552,654 to that budget - excluding the funds to pay for any legal challenge to the competing Council district maps.

Prop 448 restores, in essence, the full 2013 budget for County agencies as introduced by the Mayor and as struck down by the Mayors.

Prop 449 would reinstate language in the 2013 budget passed by the Council and struck by the Mayors, that allows for the CIB PILOT money to be deposited into the rainy day fund.

Curious is Prop 458, which would amend the recent requirement that Flea Markets operate under license to exclude sales in Clean Zones of big events.  I'm not really sure why one would want to let folks in these Zones sell goods that could have sketchy provenance, but I guess we'll find out.

The changes to the 2013 cannot be implemented before the end of 2012, thus their timing.  If competing proposals on the Council budget had not been introduced, the Pollyanna in me might have suspected a compromise in the works over the Mayors' line item cuts of the Council-passed budget.  The fiscal ordinance proposals all go to the Admin & Finance committee, which next meets on Tuesday.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CIB to Sign One Year Deal With Pacers

This press release came from Council President, Maggie Lewis:
Indianapolis City-County Council President Maggie A. Lewis
Media Response about CIB Vote to Extend Pacers Agreement
December 12, 2012
"Extending the Pacers agreement at this time allows us the opportunity to focus on the pressing issues at hand which is city governance.  Issues such as public safety are a priority for us right now.  Approving the agreement with the Pacers moves this off of our list and allows us to place all of our emphasis on matters that are pressing to our constituencies and will keep moving Indianapolis forward."
This just saves the CIB the embarrassment of begging for more tax revenue at the same time they are flush enough to hand millions more of public money to the Simons.  If they can afford an extra $10 million right now, then they should pay up on the PILOT and turn down any tax increases.  Enough is enough.


Could See This One Coming for Years Now

Anyone who remembers that the CIB bailout from a few years ago contained two delayed opportunities to increase taxes, knew those two taxes would be on the table.  Will someone please explain to me why we go through this charade of 'well, maybe we won't need the money'.  The city mothers and fathers never let a chance to raise taxes fall to the wayside.

Today's Indy Star holds the 'revelation' that there is intense consideration by the CIB and Mayor Vaughn and Council President Lewis, to raise the admissions tax by an additional 4% and the car rental tax by an additional 2%.  Reporter Jon Murray has a great article, and one that has a host of information in it.  Last night fellow blogger Paul Ogden commented on it over at Ogden On Politics.  This morning, Gary Welsh adds his thoughts on Advance Indiana.

The additional taxes could raise about $7 million in additional funds to the CIB each year.  The CIB was funnelling $10 million a year, $8 million of which came from property taxes through the Consolidated Downtown TIF, for the past three years.  They are now in 'negotiations' to hand over even more cash to the Pacers.  Since they continue to receive the $8 million from property taxes, an additional $7 million might leave a $5 million 'surplus' (after what I assume will be a 'negotiated' deal to continue the $10 million extra funding to the poor Pacers).

But wait - there is a new twist.  After cutting the Council budget off at the knees because the Democrats placed a $15 million PILOT obligation on to the CIB, Mayor Vaughn is apparently interested in syphoning off some of the CIB's new tax revenue for the City.  The shell game is such that the City would ask the CIB to pay for the public safety services it receives from the City; services that are now provided free of charge.  So, the City can get a new stream of tax revenue by raising taxes for the CIB.  Since the super bowl supposedly cost $4 million in public safety, this new shell game could not possibly cover the true cost of services provided to CIB-run facilities throughout downtown.

While Mayor Vaughn refused to fund recruit classes for IMPD and IFD and says the city budget must be lean, he continues to foist more TIFs on the taxpayers, push for even more corporate handouts of tax dollars, and craft ever greater sweetheart deals with multi-millionaire sports team owners.  Priorities in this City are out of whack.  Our City government has become hardly much more than an extension of the Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflections on Election Day

I've had a little rest and relaxation since last week and am back to blogging.  Before I move off Election Day, though, I'd like to share some random thoughts from working the polls last Tuesday.

Turnout was great !  We got over 50% and the precinct we shared the site with got over 60%.

Although voters were focused, there wasn't the same level of anger evident four years ago.

The yellow postcards telling folks where their polling site was located were a hit.  Many people brought them along, and in one particular case it helped resolve a voter registration issue so that person could vote a regular ballot.

People rely on the BMV to change voter registration at the same time as they change the address on their driver's license.  The BMV is not to be trusted with this, as they time and time again drop the ball on the voter registration.  Last Tuesday we had at least a dozen people who thought all was well after dealing with the BMV.  Not so.  If you ever try to change your voter registration through the BMV - make sure you get a receipt from them showing that effort.  Keep the receipt.  No matter how you try to change your voter registration take heed of the following:  If you do not get a card in the mail within two months from Voter Registration, stating your name, your address, and your voter number, CALL Voter Registration and inquire.  Their number is 327-5040.  It is best not to wait until Election Day to try to resolve these issues, as you very well might be denied the right to vote because you are not properly registered.

I prefer days when we have a constant stream of voters to days when few show up to the polls.

I dislike the way the County Parties use the process to gather their information on Election Day.  The Rs sat someone at the 'challenge table' (we had no challengers) who kept their voter call list updated as well as inquiring as to phone numbers.  This held up the line at times.  The Ds, too cheap to pay someone to sit at the challenge table, got the law changed so that the Clerk may keep tabs on who has voted.  The Clerk is a busy person on Election Day, checking voters in, checking IDs, initialling ballots, and referring issues to the Judges and/or Inspector.  Especially on busy voting days, this is more than enough to keep track of and screening another list for a voter's name ties up the line.

I prefer the voting machine that you feed the paper ballot into, as it leaves the paper trail.   The touch screen voting machine leaves no way to double check the voter's intention.

We have a great crew in DE-11 and DE-16.  Many of us have worked together for nearly a decade.

The day is usually a social one - those days when you get few problems to resolve, anyway.  You see folks you know and get to catch up a bit on what's been happening.  Its nice.

Beth White has done an outstanding job with elections.  Every year it seems to get just a bit smoother and just a bit less complicated.  The biggest disappointment among most voters this year, was that we ran out of 'I voted, I count' stickers.  I have to say I'm surprised at how really popular those stickers are.

About 10% of our voters chose early voting - with slightly more doing it in person at City Hall than through an absentee ballot sent through the mail.

Its nice to see young people serving at the polls.  Those of us who have served a while need replacements.  If that might be you, let your County Party or the Election Board know of your willingness to give it a try.  You just might like it. 

Election Day is a long day, yet a satisfying one.  We do something important - make sure voters participate in a fair election, with the least amount of delay to the voters as we can manage.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do your part - VOTE !!!

Polls are open from 6 am to 6 pm.  Be in line by 6 pm and you can vote.

You know the rule : If you don't vote, you don't get to complain !

Check with the Voter Information Portal to find your polling location and to check your registration.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Letter to the Editor Gets it Right - Mayor Gambles With Public Safety

Today's IndyStar has a letter to the editor that gets it exactly right when it comes to the Mayor's veto of funding for County Offices.  Here's the letter:

We are Indianapolis workers, public servants, faith and community leaders, and we are willing to urge Mayor Greg Ballard to fund the services that keep Hoosiers safe. On Oct. 26, the mayor used political maneuvering to slash public safety funding at the 11th hour after the City-County Council reached an agreement on the budget with bipartisan support. This stunt might win the mayor points with his donors, but it doesn’t keep our community safe or help our city move forward.

As the crime rate in our city continues to increase, Mayor Ballard is trying to force our community to accept funding cuts for essential public safety services. The mayor is cutting funding that helps pay to process or defend those accused of crimes, process crime scenes, investigate deaths, operate the courts, run the jails and provide other public services. We believe that the mayor’s unprecedented action to cut these funds is wrong and are troubled by City-County Council leadership’s allegation that his action was illegal.

As residents of Indianapolis and leaders in our community, we urge Mayor Ballard to reconsider his decision before our city suffers the consequences. Safety should be a priority for our city government. We can’t afford to gamble with our security or the services our community depend on.

Chrystal Radcliff
NAACP, President of Greater Indianapolis NAACP Chapter

Nancy Holle
President, Community Faith and Labor Coalition

Rev C. L. Day
President, Concerned Clergy

Joanne Sanders
National Vice President, Coalition of Labor Union Women

Brett Voorhies
President, Central Indiana Labor Council (AFL-CIO)

Amy Shackelford
Lead community organizer, Jobs with Justice

Jennifer Disla
Indianapolis Director, SEIU Local 1

Double Check Your Polling Site & Your Voter Registration For Tomorrow

The Election Board website has an awesome app that everyone should take advantage of - especially if you have not vote at all yet this year.  Last year the precinct boundaries were moved and you may not live in the same precinct you used to.  In addition, there are normally some changes of polling locations simply because new sites become available and/or old sites become inadequate in some way.

This app is called the Voter Information Portal.

If you enter only your address, you can get a copy of the ballot you would receive tomorrow, the address of your polling location, and a mapping function that will give you driving directions as well.

If you enter your birthday, as well, you will also be able to review your voter registration information.  If there is a problem, you will have a little more time to get it worked out so that you can vote a regular ballot at the polls tomorrow.  Any problems, call 327-VOTE (327-8683).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Council Republicans - Its Obvious Now, They'll Never Stand Up To Vaughn

Mayor Ryan Vaughn has a bullying problem - and his cohorts on the Council have not taken him on, even when it means they cannot fulfill the job they were elected to do because of his vindictive vetoes of the Council-passed budget.

Much like a wife beater who blames their battered spouse, claiming he just wanted to 'have a conversation', Vaughn has lashed out at the Democrats, crippling the Council budget and that of every other duly elected Democrat in County government, but denying any responsibility for his outlandish, brutish actions.  According to his enablers, he was forced to do it because the Democrats would not talk with him and all he wants to do is 'have a conversation'.

The Republicans voted in lockstep on each and every vote last night to override Vaughn's vetoes of the budget (Councillors Scales, Gooden, and Freeman were absent).  If there were any time they should have stood up to Vaughn, it surely was when the vote was to override his veto of the Council's entire character 3 budget.  That is their budget.  I now have to give up hope that the Council will ever be more than an appendage of whoever is Mayor, not the independent body we should have.

Let's look at all the alternatives Vaughn had at his disposal.

1) Do nothing except use his soap box to cast derision upon the Democrat led Council.  He and his PR firm have been successful in getting the editorial writers at the Star and IBJ to denounce the Council's efforts to be circumspect and responsible in passing his TIF districts.  He has been successful in his behind the scenes blackmail and threats and pretending to share power with the greedy and ambitious.  But, that was not enough.  The Council had the audacity to disobey Vaughn.  They wanted a recruit class for IMPD and IFD - and they found a way to fund it.  They did not want to do as they were told and rejected the elimination of the homestead credit - a credit that the Republican controlled Council chose to fund with COIT money just three years ago, after the property tax caps were in full effect.  No, this was not an option for someone who will not be disobeyed.

2) Send down only the commentary on the $15 M PILOT that the Council required of the CIB.  This statement said that if the money were ever actually collected, Vaughn would veto any attempt to spend the funds.  This totally blocks the purpose of the PILOT, yet still leaves the door open for cooperation in the future.  Such a move would be enough if the aim were to have a balanced budget that worked for everyone in 2013.  That, however, was never the aim.

3) Send down the commentary on the PILOT and cut the Council budget by $652,654 in character 3.  The point in vetoing the Council budget is to keep the Council from introducing its own Council District maps and litigating those maps in court.  That amounts to $100,000.  That may be less than the raises Vaughn and his buddies on the 25th floor got, but it represents independent thinking and that shall not be tolerated in a Vaughn administration.  Gutting the ability of the Council to pay the rent, pay the light bill, hire attorneys or their CFO, or to even pay to put public notices in the paper as required by law will cripple the ability of duly elected officials, Republican and Democrat alike, to do their job.  President Maggie Lewis notes in a letter to constituents that this veto is "political bullying at work, not leadership".

4) None of these options being enough, Vaughn's next step would be to add the veto of the use of the money in the County General Fund for any County agency.  This is the big one - $31.8 million.  It cannot be said often enough that this is the part of the budget left untouched by the Council and it was pretty much what the introduced budget included.  At this point, logic left the building.  This is shear and naked vindictiveness.  Not that long ago, the County was under court order to bring its housing of inmates into line with human dignity.  Public safety is not just the cops on the streets, its the jail and the courts as well.  Job one in the Vaughn administration is not public safety, job one is not getting contradicted by the Council - and making sure they feel the pain if they get out of line.  Vaughn was a total coward when it came to cutting off the funding for the County agencies.  He is letting the DLGF decide exactly where those cuts will fall, instead of making those choices as part of his veto package.

5) And still - with the pain pushed to every corner of County government except those departments controlled by the Mayor's office - and still, this was not enough.  This last step was surely the most illuminating.  The Council had the temerity to create a subfund in the city's general fund that could only be used for police and fire recruiting and training. It was empty, but could be filled with any source of funds, including those from the $15 M CIB PILOT.  This fund caused no harm.  It was empty.  It would disappear without a fuss on December 31, 2013.  The existence of this fund, though, was more than Vaughn could stand.  It reeked of disobedience.  It had to go.

Vaughn is no longer an elected official, unlike the Councillors.  It is disheartening that those Councillors on the Republican side of the aisle would not tell Vaughn he had gone too far this time.  They enable the bully every time they acquiesce to his nasty machinations.

Instead they repeated all the falsehoods Vaughn is now trying to hide behind. 

Councillor Hunter said last night "I warned the Council the night this came up", referring to the police and fire recruit fund.

Councillor Pfisterer brought up the $35 m structural deficit not eliminating the homestead credit supposedly would cause through the end of 2014.  No alarms went out last year when the Republican controlled Council passed this year's budget using $40 m from the downtown TIF.  No alarms went out this year either, when another $10 m was pulled from the same source for next year.  And, it is factually inaccurate, to boot.  The Council's budget is as sound as the Mayor's introduced budget.  The fact of the matter is, that the recession will fade and the tax coffers will fill.  The income tax receipts are already rebounding and property values have stopped falling.  It is the Mayor's actions on TIFs that really jeopardize every taxing unit in Marion County and the services they provide.

Councillor Miller, who read a lengthy statement that demonstrates he understands exactly what is happening, bought into the idea that this is all about having a conversation.  He said "while I don't like coming to a conversation with a shotgun at my head, I have to agree that at this point a shotgun was the only way to get us to talk, and that's a shame".  That's simply not true, even though I think he believes it.  What exactly is to be discussed?  This budget process began back in August.  Plenty of time for discussion.  It was clear from the beginning that funding recruit classes was a priority of the Democrats - a goal Miller supported by the way.  Vaughn owns a phone.  Lewis owns a phone.  There could have been conversation.  These vetoes aren't about jump starting a conversation - they are about control.

I lost track of who repeated the thought that the appropriations remain, its just that the money won't be available to fund those appropriations for the County agencies.  That is clearly not true as the DLGF will insist on cutting appropriations so that the spending matches the funds available.  Whether they will wield an ax or a scalpel is unknown.

Vaughn's public display of temper will harm the Council, the County agencies, public safety, and the citizens of Indianapolis.  The least destructive road to travel at this point is for the Mayor's office to walk this back.  Allow the appropriations and funding to be reintroduced and not vetoed - and by January 1, 2013.  After that date the Council will not have the money to hold legally noticed meetings.  The shotgun Miller alludes to, is really aimed at forcing/blackmailing the Council into agreeing to raise taxes - likely in a few places besides the elimination of the homestead credit - and equally likely, pushing forward more of the Mayor's agenda.  Its not about the budget.  Its not about just wanting a conversation.  Its far more nefarious than that.  And the Council Republicans aided, abetted, and enabled Vaughn's vindictive and abusive ways.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mayors' Budget Veto Just May Be About Tax Increases - Its Certainly Not About A Balanced Budget

Mayor Vaughn usually pulls the strong arm stuff out of view of the public.  Threats, horse swapping, calling on Republican unity even when distasteful, cajoling with the greedy and ambitious.

Now his tactics are in full view with his veto of the balanced Council budget and his denunciation of the $15 M PILOT from the CIB, that leaves the door open for (gasp!) recruit classes for IMPD and IFD.  How awful of the Democrats !

Its not about the fiction floated by the Vaughn administration that the Council's budget is not balanced - because it certainly is.  For those readers who are number averse, just skip the rest of this paragraph and join me in a few sentences.  The Mayor's introduced budget spends $1.13 B while the Council's passed budget spends $1.12 B.  The Mayor's budget takes in revenues (excluding property taxes) of $676 M while the Council's budget takes in revenues (excluding property taxes) of $673 M.  They both raise $351 M in property taxes.  The Mayor spends down $106 M from fund balances while the Council spends down $99 M from fund balances.  None of the $15 M PILOT from the CIB, passed by the Council and opposed by the Mayor, is part of these numbers.

One quick aside - While the Mayors pretend to be disgusted by the one time infusion of the $15 M PILOT to cover operating expenses, they eagerly dipped into the downtown TIF for $30 M for the Pacers and $40 M to make ends meet in this year's budget AND have another $10 M to be used for next year's budget.  So, don't be buying their sudden alarm at the PILOT - its all an act.

Mayor Vaughn and his ally, Mayor Ballard, really really really wanted the Council to eliminate the Homestead Credit, which would save the City-County $8.7 M but foist $3.5 M in lost revenue on the various school districts in the County.

The Mayors really really really want more TIFs so that they have more slush funds to work with, even though they mean higher taxes for all of us and greater revenue losses for IPS, in particular.

There are two new taxes that will be on the table in the spring - increases of the car rental and admissions taxes are the last bits of the old CIB bailout from a few years ago.   The Mayors will want those to pass a Democrat controlled Council.

There will be an announcement soon of some sweetheart deal with the Pacers - the only question remains as to how much more of our tax money will be going to them instead of to fund police and fire protection, schools, libraries, IndyGo and the rest of services that impact most of us on a daily basis.

There is the push for a specific mass transit plan that spends more getting Hamilton County transit than it does on IndyGo.  The Mayors will want all on board to lobby for a tax increase public question on the 2014 ballot.

And, I grow more and more wary of an income tax hike being lobbied.  Councillor Ben Hunter has become the spokesperson for Vaughn in open Council meetings of late.  He pushed against the elimination of the Homestead Credit in committee (and voted against it there).  However, once the budget hit the floor of the full Council, he was all over the big bad Democrats for realizing, but not responding to, the impact keeping the Credit would have on the Council's lobbying 'on the other end of Washington Street'.  He also brought in the disingenuous and false arguement that the Credit amounted to poverty level wage earners subsidizing the mansions of the rich.

A push for income taxes split by workplace as well as residence would be welcome.  But the pushback from Senator Luke Kenley's home County, plus other donut counties, would be massive.  What I fear is a push for higher income taxes to be paid by residents of Marion County.

To make that work with the public, you would have to see exactly what we are  now seeing - an underfunded public safety budget that threatens to degrade the already low numbers of officers and firefighters.  So, the Mayors just may have a stake in not solving the recruit class problem, and not paying the raises that they agreed to in the IMPD and IFD contracts.  They just may have a stake in having the Feds claw back the COPS grant money spent here, because our officer number dropped below agreed to figures.

Its not that these are easy times; they are not.  But the Great Recession will pass and the income tax coffers will rise.  There are some, though, who would not want to waste a perfectly good crisis by simply making it through to the other side with the same resources, when you can use it as an excuse to fatten those resources.

The short leash created by the Mayors' vetoes of the Council budget can be used each time the Mayors want one of their taxes passed, or one of their issues lobbied, or one of their TIFs fully bonded and uncomplicated by TIF reforms.  That leash can be yanked when the Pacers deal becomes public and money flows from resources that should go to help all of us to instead be diverted to some of the wealthiest individuals in our area.  And, the leash will keep the Democrats from spending any money on that recruit class nonsense.  The PILOT money can just sit there an rot, instead.

This melodrama, created by the Mayors vetoes, never was about a supposedly unbalanced budget.  It certainly is about control of the Council.  How many times this leash will be yanked is up in the air.   But, beware - its going to cost all of us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Full Council To Meet Thursday - Mayor's Veto of Budget & Parking Ticket Maximums To Be Considered

City-County Council President, Maggie Lewis, has called a special meeting of the Council for this Thursday, November 1, at 6:30 pm.  November 1 is the last day that the any unit of government can pass a budget, set a property tax levy (amount of money to be raised from property taxes), and set a property tax rate.

The Mayors used the line-item veto in a number of sections of the budget ordinance passed by the Council on October 15, by a vote of 18-11.  Of course, Mayors Vaughn and Ballard have not chosen to line item veto anything that would interfere with their collection of property taxes from the good citizens and property owners of Indy.  Nor have they interfered with their ability to discharge about $100 m in property tax revenues collected in TIF districts.  Nor have they scaled back the obscene raises for favored folks in the Administration, including Vaughn himself.

No, they used the line item veto to keel haul the Council for its audacity in actually passing a balanced budget stained with the sin of it not being the Mayor's budget.  So, the Mayors have deliberately cut revenues without cutting spending - creating an actual unbalanced budget.  They want the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to name the places where the hatchet shall land.

The Mayors line item vetoed all $652,654 for character 3 expenses of the Council office.  They vetoed the $31,767,652 allocation of County Option Income Taxes to the County General fund.  They eliminated the creation of the special fund for recruit classes and officer training.  And, they eliminated the allocation to the rainy day funds of any unanticipated additional revenue that might come in during 2013.

As President Lewis notes in her letter to the Council:
In light of the Mayor’s recent veto of separate items of the budget, specifically the appropriation to the Character 03 portion of the 2013 City-County Council Budget, the following responsibilities of the Council will be affected:
*Payment to the General Counsel to the Council;
*Payment to the Minority Counsel;
*Payment to ISA for computer and telephone services;
*Payment of other Information Technology;
*Payment for legal advertising and notices of Council and committee meetings, fiscal ordinances,
and other special Council-related business;
*Payment for copying and printing services provided for any correspondence to Councillors, City-
County Administration and agencies, constituents, media, etc.;
*Payment of office lease at the City-County building and other related charges;
*Payment of code book subscription to update city ordinances and make available to the public;
*Payment of Councillor conference expenses; and
*Payment of any other contacts and services as deemed necessary by the Council
Elimination of the funding for this Character is in direct violation of IC 36-3-4-8.5. Consequently, as Council President, I have determined that a special full Council meeting will be held on Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers. The purpose of this meeting is to override the Mayor’s veto so that the Council may conduct the business of the people and serve its constituents beginning January 1 of 2013.
Please note that the other items included in the veto will appear on the agenda as well. However, each item will be voted on individually and to the discretion of each Council member. Thank you.

IC 36-3-4-8.5 says:
IC 36-3-4-8.5
Employment of attorneys or legal research assistants
Sec. 8.5. (a) A clerk may hire or contract with competent attorneys or legal research assistants on terms the clerk considers appropriate.
(b) Appropriations for the salaries of attorneys and legal research assistants employed under this section shall be approved in the annual budget.
The referenced clerk is the Clerk of the City-County Council.

In an earlier press release, Lewis noted that the Mayor does not have legal authority to veto any component of the budget of any Constitutionally established office (see Advance Indiana's blog entry "Ballard Budget Veto Gives New Meaning To 'Its My Way or the Highway'")   IC 36-3-4-14(b)(1) says:
 (b) All ordinances and resolutions of a legislative body are subject to veto, except the following:
(1) An ordinance or resolution, or part of either, providing for the budget or appropriating money for an office or officer of the county provided for by the Constitution of Indiana or for a judicial office or officer.
Article 6, Section 2, of the Indiana State Constitution says:
Section 2. (a) There shall be elected, in each county by the voters thereof, at the time of holding general elections, a Clerk of the Circuit Court, Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, Coroner, and Surveyor, who shall, severally, hold their offices for four years.
Article 7, Section 16 says:
Section 16. Prosecuting Attorneys. There shall be elected in each judicial circuit by the voters thereof a prosecuting attorney, who shall have been admitted to the practice of law in this State before his election, who shall hold his office for four years, and whose term of office shall begin on the first day of January next succeeding his election. The election of prosecuting attorneys under this section shall be held at the time of holding the general election in the year 1974 and each four years thereafter.
That leaves all $31.7 million of the vindictive cuts made by our Mayors line item vetoes to fall on the budgets of  the following offices - each office is followed by the amount of money originally budgeted to come from the County General fund targeted by the Mayors, which is followed in parentheses by the total budget for that office:
Public Defender $17.6 m ($18.0 m)
Community Corrections $3.4 m ($9.5 m)
Forensic Services $5.9 m ($6.9 m)
Cooperative Extension $0.8 m ($0.8 m)
Assessor $5.2 m ($7.4 m)
Election Board $1.3 m ($1.3 m)
Voters' Registration $1.1 m ($1.1 m)
aggregate $35.3 m from the County General fund and a total budget of 45.0 m
Curiously enough, it is not clear what the elimination of allocation of any excess funds would really do.  The money must reside somewhere in the City-County coffers in some fund or another.  Likely the point was to keep the $15 m PILOT from the CIB from the City's rainy day fund specifically.  Still, the Council had not appropriated any of that money anyway.  So, I surely can't see any logic in scratching this line out.  But, vindictiveness knows only its own logic.

Also on the agenda for November 1, is Prop 315, which was vetoed entirely by the Mayors.   This proposal would allow for only one parking ticket per violation per day and alter the process for requesting a hearing on any particular ticket received.  The Council voted 18 -11 to pass this proposal at the October 15 meeting of the Council - with all Democrats plus Republicans Sandlin and Scales voting in favor and the remaining Republicans voting no.

The budget was voted on in two parts due to conflicts of interest by Lewis and Adams.  The Assessor's office budget passed by a vote of 25-2-2, with Republican Councillors Lutz and Sandlin casting the no votes and Lewis and Adams abstaining.  The remainder of the budget was passed by a vote of 18-11, with all Democrats plus Republicans Holliday and Scales voting for, and all of the rest of the Republicans voting no.

This budget process appears to be the energizer bunny of budget processes - it keeps going and going and going.  On November 1, 6:30 pm, public assembly room, city-county building, the Council will take up the issue of a veto override.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How Vindictive Mayor's Budget Cuts Hit County Offices

Its clear that all Mayors Ballard and Vaughn care about is getting their way.

The $32 million budget cuts imposed by them - needlessly, mind you - 'for kicks and giggles' - is in the form of vetoing the line item where $31,767,652 in COIT funds are moved into the County General fund.

From the Mayor's introduced budget we get these numbers for the departments and agencies receiving revenue from that fund (with their total introduced budget in parentheses):

Sheriff                   $68.8 m  ($109.2 m)
Superior Court       $37.8 m  ($53.5 m)
Circuit Court         $1.1 m ( $1.4 m)
Prosecutor             $13.5 m ($23.6 m)
Prosecutor Child Support Division       $4.4 m ($4.4 m)
Public Defender       $17.6 m ($18.0 m)
Community Corrections      $3.4 m  ($9.5 m)
Forensic Services      $5.9 m ($6.9 m)
Coroner                  $2.7 m  ($2.8 m)
Cooperative Extension       $0.8 m  ($0.8 m)
Auditor                  $9.1 m  ($9.8 m)
Assessor                $5.2 m  ($7.4 m)
Treasurer                $2.1 m  ($2.1 m)
Clerk                     $5.6 m    ($6.3 m)
Election Board      $1.3 m   ($1.3 m)
Voters' Registration    $1.1 m ($1.1 m)
Recorder              $0.6 m   ($1.8 m)
Surveyor               $0.2 m  ($0.6 m)

Just so you know what kind of men you have on the 25th floor.

Mayor Plays Games With Budget - Trying to Blackmail Council Into Submission

Mayors Ballard and Vaughn are taking a 'no prisoners' approach to the 2013 City-County budget - even if it means harming our City and the services it can provide.  Severely harming.  Its a game to them, not a responsibility to be taken seriously.

Bottom line, the Mayor is cutting $32 million from the City-County budget to spite the Democratic controlled Council - and all of us.

Here is their press release:
Mayor Ballard Announces Line-Item Veto of 2013 City-County Budget
City-County Council Majority Walks Away from Multiple Compromise Offers, Forcing Cuts
INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard today announced his line-item veto of the 2013 budget adopted by the City-County Council. 
"The budget passed by the Council majority leaves a $35 million deficit by the end of next year and next to nothing in the City's savings account to pay for it," said Mayor Ballard.  "We tried on multiple occasions to reach a compromise with the Council majority; however, they've decided to just spend money we don't have and not address the City's long-term financial needs.  I will not support that."
To address the estimated $35 million deficit for 2014, Mayor Ballard is vetoing these provisions from the 2013 budget:
  • Allocation of $31,767,652 in County Option Income Tax (COIT) to the County General Fund
    • This action will prompt the State Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) to reduce County General Fund spending to match available revenues.
    • The non-allocated funds will be held by the Marion County Treasurer until such a time as it is allocated by the City-County Council with Mayor Ballard's approval.
  • Character 3 budget of the City-County Council ($652,654)
    • This fund covers outside vendor contracts, which includes $100,000 the Council majority requested for re-redistricting.
  • Creation of the Police and Fire Recruiting Fund.
    • This fund does not contain any funding nor was any directed to it in the budget.
Mayor Ballard also is sending an "Official Communication from the Mayor" to the Council reiterating the City's position that the PILOT on the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) does not conform to state law and that he will not approve any allocation of funds from this illegal Council action.

These are the facts about the 2013 budget.

The Council declined to eliminate the homestead credit on property tax bills, resulting in a net $8.7 m reduction of revenues into the budget.  They showed those reductions in the appropriate places throughout the budget.  (click here to see the Council version of the budget ordinance that has now been ravaged by our vindictive administration).

The Council declined $20 m in spending by DPW, and removed $20 m from their revenues as well.

The Council budget is balanced.

The total spending for City-County government in the Mayor's introduced budget was $1,133,548,598 and total revenues (excluding property taxes) were $676,178,961.  The Council approved budget (which includes changes made by both the Controller and the Council) includes spending of $1,123,646,892 and revenues (excluding property taxes) of $673,038,219.  Both raise the same amount in property taxes ($351 m), with a small technical correction included in the Council version due to an amendment by the Controller.

The Council version spends $10 million less than the Mayor's version - completely offsetting the revenue the Mayor wanted from the elimination of the homestead credit.

The Mayor's elimination of the Council's entire character 3 budget is vindictive at best.  This cuts more than the $100,000 the Council added for litigation on the Council district map issue.  It cuts the items the Mayor asked for as well.  The Council CFO and Counsel are paid from this character.  Here is the description of character 3 expenses from the Mayor's budget book:
Other Services and Charges (Character 3)

This category includes expenditures for services other than personal
services required by the Consolidated City either to carry out its
assigned functions or to fulfill moral or legal obligations. Other
Services and Charges includes professional services, communication
and transportation, printing and advertising, insurance (excluding
group health, life and self-insurance), utility expenditures, contracted
repairs and maintenance, rentals, debt service expenditures for
principal and interest payments as well as long-term debt.
Games - hardball - vindictive - dereliction of duty

The $32 million reduction in revenues - forcing the DLGF to cut appropriations - is a dangerous move that puts the entire city-county services in jeopardy.  It is a slap in the face of all of Indy's residents.  It is cowardly to duck making the cuts himself, but leave that chore and its attendant responsibility to the DLGF instead.  COWARDLY.

The Mayors want you to believe it is the Council's fault.  It is not.

If you call 911 and don't get a response as quickly as you need in 2013 - make sure your next call is to the Mayor's office and tell them exactly how their low ethics impacted your life.

These cuts are draconian, cowardly, and devoid of any conscience.

Neither Mayor Cares What You Think

Neither Mayor Ballard nor Mayor Vaughn care what you think.  Not about anything.

The latest example is the acceptance of the Mass Ave project announce yesterday.  The process could have included a public showing of all competing designs so the affected neighborhoods could comment.  It did not.  There wasn't any public process.

There should be clawbacks in the project agreement regarding any final design passing muster with our laws.  I have requested the RFP and all submitted proposals - I'll let you know if there is any such stipulation.  It would be a welcome precedent, if such a stipulation was in place, but I'm not holding my breath.

Now, like the Broad Ripple parking garage, variances are required to actually make the winning design compliant with our laws.  And, not just any aspect of the design - the centerpiece Times Square LED HD screen is a violation of our sign ordinance and is nowhere near a fit with the historic neighborhood in which it would lie.  Its not an accent piece, like some brightly colored throw pillow on an earth tone sofa.  Its a glaring, possibly blaring, monster truck wheel on an Amish buggy.  So, what if it is denied by the BZA and the Historic Preservation Commission? 

 One of Mayor Vaughn's goals for his first term, is to make sure the Boards and Commissions give up any independent thought when it comes to issues Vaughn holds dear - like throwing public dollars needlessly at developers. Expect an extreme amount of pressure to be put on those members of the BZA and the IHPC.

They say that the relocation of the fire station that now occupies the parcel is still under consideration.  So, you'll believe that I'm a true psychic if I tell you it will be located on the north end of 510 N. College.

If I'm wrong, then the fire station location could be opened for public comment - just like it should be.  I'd prefer to be wrong, but I'm not - I'm psychic.

Meanwhile, you might like the new design and all that it implies for the future 'scene' on Mass Ave, or you may not.  It really doesn't matter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's Going On With TIFs?

For the second consecutive meeting of the Metropolitan and Economic Development committee, the Mid-North TIF (prop 291) was postponed - now to November 26.  Ostensibly it was due to sponsor Councillor John Barth's drafting of an amendment, which he told a couple of us who attended the meeting, was still a concept in his head.  He did promise to have the Council office post his amendment online in advance of the November 26 in order to give the public a chance to review it prior to that meeting.

The committee also postponed to November 26, two proposals on the TIF Study Commission recommendations - Prop 274 urging the MDC to adopt those recommendations pertinent to them, and Prop 275 urging the General Assembly to adopt recommendations that fall in their wheelhouse.  Although these proposals were introduced before the Mid-North TIF proposal, this was the first time they were actually placed on a committee agenda.

Also being delayed from any actual agenda, is the reintroduced TIF proposed for the Meadows area - formerly Prop 16, declared dead when Prop 15 was not.  This is the proposed expansion of the Fall Creek TIF and now is alive as Prop 349.

The Council has 45 days to put an introduced proposal on a committee agenda, and November 26 will come in just under the wire at 42 days.

Tonight's Rules committee meeting will entertain Prop 316 for the second time.  This proposal seeks the enactment of the TIF Study Commission recommendations that the Council can do something about.  You will recall that Barth authored a poison pill amendment that would have gutted the recommendations, the last time the committee met.  (see "Dust Up For Reasons Unknown - But I Speculate Anyway") We shall see if he still tries to do so.

It is obvious that the Democratic caucus is dysfunctional when it comes to TIF policy.  That is very unfortunate for the economic health of Indianapolis going forward.  We simply cannot absorb square mile after square mile of new TIFs - ones that primarily benefit well to do areas of our City to boot - without harming all of our governmental units' ability to deliver the services we are actually paying taxes to get.

Tonight is an opportunity to return the horse to the front of the cart, and let the Council adopt the well considered recommendations for full disclosure, transparency, and accountability that the public deserves regarding TIF district establishment and maintenance. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

S#*! My Mayor Says

Unbelievable.  Mayor Ballard is on break from his four year world tour and he has time to relay lies to the Republican caucus of the Council AND put out a press release moments after the Council passed a balanced budget; albeit a budget altered from the one Ballard titularly introduced not long ago.

Thanks to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for filling us in on some of the Mayor's ribbon cutting interrupted schedule tonight in his post "Ballard Lies: Tells Councilors Homestead Credit Only Benefits The Rich".

Here's the funniest line in the press release:
The Council majority's current plan is unfunded, increases spending, more than doubles the deficit for 2014, and strips support of our downtown economy in order to give tax breaks to a select few.
Well, it is balanced, therefore funded.

It increases spending - most spectacularly for the Parks budget where the demon D's had the unmitigated gaul to add $400,000 to pay the utility bills - which were left unfunded by our oh-so-funny Mayor.  There are smaller increases and reductions elsewhere, but all leading to a balance budget.

What has the Mayor miffed, is they declined his invitation to eliminate the homestead credit and rather knocked at the door of the CIB for additional money - which is not appropriated and not part of the actual budget.  As Councillor Brown phrased it tonight, it simply gives the Mayor the wherewithal to fulfill his promises.

The supposed deficit for 2014 - there is no deficit if Mayor Vaughn, acting Mayor while Ballard oversees ribbon cutting and world tour venue selection, doesn't instruct the CIB to file a lawsuit over the PILOT.  Duh !

And lastly, oh so over the top - yes folks, the 'end times for downtown' are BACK and Better Than Ever !!!  The golden oldies never let you down.  The Mayor's press release actually says the revised budget  "... strips support of our downtown economy in order to give tax breaks to a select few".  Precious !

Councillor Caldwell even said at tonight's Council meeting , and I swear he wasn't even chocking back a guffaw, the CIB PILOT was "putting 70,000 jobs downtown at risk".  Now that's Mayoral potential for you; to actually spit that sentence out without turning beet red from the embarrassment.

As for those "select few" - Now we all know full well that Mayor Ballard and Mayor Vaughn know what they are talking about when they talk about a select few benefiting to the detriment of the many.  So, I assume they will be recalling this part of their press release like so much salmonella infected melons once they realize their error.  The select few, according to the City's Controller, Jeff Spalding, add up to 198,049 homeowners who would pay $4.4 million more in property taxes if the homestead credit is eliminated.  And, you'd have to add all of the school districts in Marion County who would be penalized by an aggregate $3.4 million dollars.  And, also the Library, IndyGo and Health & Hospitals who would be penalized by an aggregate $1.3 million.  Those "select few".  How dare the Democrats put the CIB ahead of them and ask the CIB to contribute to the cost of the police and fire protection they consume in vast quantities any time they sponsor an event downtown !

I don't know if William Shattner is available to play another curmudgeonly old guy who utters the most inane remarks, but if he is - we have a real chart topping hit on our hands ! America will be rolling in the aisles.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Eliminating the Homestead Credit - Its Not About Class Warfare

Some are using the complexity the effect eliminating the homestead credit would have on tax bills, to suggest its about class warfare.  This is unfortunate and demeans an important conversation our community should be having on the issue.

For those readers who do not want to don the hip boots and wade through the numbers and increasing variables set out below, the short version is this:

Generally speaking, eliminating the homestead credit will increase the property tax bills of those homeowners living in lower tax areas more than those living in higher tax areas.

Now, get those hip boots out.

Here is the County-wide view, which I have put into graph form.  The data were presented by City Controller, Jeff Spalding, to the Admin & Finance Committee earlier this month.

1) This chart shows the assessed value of homes in Marion County along the bottom axis.  The left axis and the blue bars show the number of homes that fit each assessed value category.  The right axis and red line shows the percentage of the homestead credit by which property tax bills would increase if the homestead credit were eliminated.   Now these are totals for all of Marion County and the percentage is using the aggregated numbers that include those who have hit the tax caps and those who have not. 

Those with lower valued homes will have to pay a higher percentage of the homestead credit they now enjoy, because the tax caps hit higher value homes first. Those who already hit the tax caps, would see little to no change in their tax bill because the tax cap credit would simply increase by the amount now coming from the homestead credit. 

For further complication, please note that the homestead credit is a percentage of the value of the home.  So, those with higher value homes get larger homestead credits.   But, even with that, given the large number of homes valued less than $150,000, the majority of the tax increase will be borne by those homeowners.  Throughout Marion County, tax bills would increase by $4.4 million if the homestead credit were eliminated.  $3.4 million of that total would be from increases in property tax bills of those with homes valued at less than $150,000.

2)  This chart shows the tax increases possible in $10 increments along the bottom axis.  The left axis and blue bars shows the average value of the home that would see each tax increase.  The right axis and red line show the number of homes that would see each tax increase.

About 38% of all homeowners would see little or no tax increase because they already hit the tax caps (first two blue bars).  Those homes valued higher, hit the tax caps first, and few actually will see the $100 tax bill increase.  46,397 homeowners would see a tax increase between $10 and $20, their average home value is $103,227, and together they would pay an additional $2,031,602 if the homestead credit were eliminated.  99 homeowners would see a tax increase greater than $100, their average home value is $368,674, and together they would pay an additional $14,388.

So, eliminating the homestead credit has little to do with rich folks paying their due.  The tax increases will tend to hit those with lower value homes.  If you live in a higher tax area, then you'd escape a tax increase for a home value lower than someone living in a lower tax area.   2012 tax rates vary from 4.88 in Beech Grove to 1.95 in parts of Washington Township, so you can see the high level of variability involved in which homeowners would get hit with tax increases if the homestead credit were eliminated.  But, the best generalization is that those in lower property tax areas will see a greater increase in their property tax bills if the homestead credit is eliminated.

There are a goodly number of the variables involved in who would see a tax increase, not to mention the additional variables involved in how much each school district gets hit with circuit breaker penalties if the homestead credit is eliminated.  It is easy to want someone to give us simplified cause and effect summaries.  Unfortunately, the homestead credit elimination isn't easily captured in a simple statement.  There are many variables, many pluses (depending upon where you live and what the value of your home is) and many negatives (depending upon which taxing unit gets income tax revenues in addition to property tax revenues - and how much of each).

The Councillors are right to be cautious.  Let's face it, even the Controller labels it a tax increase.  What it is not is class warfare.

Friday, October 12, 2012

CIB Tapped For $15 Million PILOT

The Municipal Corporations committee of the City-County Council added a $15 million payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) obligation to the CIB's 2013 budget last night, by a party line 5-3 vote.

You can watch the entire hearing by visiting the WCTY archives.

You can expect that unelected Mayor Vaughn (sitting in for Mayor Greg Ballard who is on a four year world tour) did not like the outcome. And you can expect that any action taken by the CIB in response to the PILOT, will be action dictated by Vaughn.

There was much legal wrangling during the meeting between Councillor Bob Lutz, Council Counsel Fred Biesecker, and CIB Attorney Toby McClamrock.  The bones of contention revolved around a) whether adding a paragraph requiring the PILOT was an additional appropriation (which is not allowed under state law), b) whether an assessed value made after March 1 can be used to levy taxes in 2013, or if they must wait until 2014, and c) whether ordinary tax procedures apply to PILOTs anyway.  McClamrock hoisted the flag of - we may not pay it anyway - to see who saluted, but no responses were made from either side of the aisle.

On the actual meat of the reasons for this PILOT, Councillor Brian Mahern kept bringing it back to the fact that the Mayor's proposed budget would let police and fire numbers drop even further.  He said there are already 100 fewer police than at the time of the merger and by not holding recruit classes, the numbers would drop even further.  He noted as well, that the CIB relies heavily upon IFD and IMPD services for the many events that are held in their facilities.

While Councillor Lutz primarily discussed the legal aspects, Councillor Cardwell brought up all the trickle down taxes that he said were due to the CIB, indicating that was more than enough help to the City.

Ann Lathrop mentioned "I feel your pain" and later said she had a fiduciary responsibility to the CIB "not to run it into bankruptcy".  Oh pah-leez on both counts.

The CIB has had more than enough cash to give $10 million for each of the last three years to the Pacers and at the same time increase its year end 2009 cash balance from $26 million to a year end 2012 cash balance expected to be $76 million.  They also have so much money that they are proposing that all of an anticipated $4 million gained from the sale of one of its buildings be simply given to the ICVA - over and above the $9 million the CIB usually gives them.

Unfortunately for the CIB, their believability index runs near the empty mark for much of the public and some elected officials as well.

Is this PILOT the perfect solution?  No.  But the Mayor isn't offering any solutions at all to the drop in IFD and IMPD counts that would be caused by having no recruit classes.  I'm very glad that someone is stepping up to the plate and getting some solutions in place.

In the age of tax caps, the city does have to rethink some of its own self inflicted revenue hits - especially not sunsetting TIF districts that are no longer in debt.  They should rethink the airport keeping hundreds of acres of land, that it does not need for aviation purposes, off the tax rolls.  With the Great Recession still upon us, the city budget has to make it through a few more years with services intact.  This year's challenges include the recruit classes.

The CIB is given special treatment each year because they are key to the ever sacred cow - sports.  IndyGo is running on bare bones and told to dig to dangerous levels in their cum fund to survive.  The Library has had to cut employees and hours over the last few years.  Its not asking all that much for the CIB to help out here.

The budget goes to the full Council Monday night.  Come January 10, 2013, when the PILOT is due, we'll see if the CIB pays up, or if Vaughn has them fight it out in court.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Plot Thickens

Public notice just went out that an additional meeting of the Admin & Finance committee of the City-County Council will be held at 5:30 pm, Monday evening.  This would be just prior to the full Council meeting where the budget must be adopted.

The sole agenda item is that committee's portion of the budget - which include all of the actual funds held by the City as well as the individual budgets for the Mayor's office, Council office, and County offices and the like.

Thank Goodness Jon Murray Is Back

Jon Murray, City Hall beat reporter for the Indy Star, is back from vacation.  And, its about time, I tell you.  Now we can get some real information about what's going on behind the scenes with the budget.

I've not been able to post about the last couple of night's meetings, and will catch up with that after I tell you what Murray is reporting about tonight's important CIB budget meeting.

The Democrats haven't collapsed after all - as seemed at last night's Public Safety committee meeting.  They are still eyeballing the CIB for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), and in addition, are lusting after some of the $80 million Rebuild Indy stabilization fund.

Murray reports:
Already, moves by the council — including a successful bid by a committee Tuesday, with help from Republicans, to save a property tax credit targeted for elimination — have rattled the Ballard administration.

Thursday, another committee could vote to extract a $10 million to $15 million payment from the city’s sports and convention board.

Council Democrats’ aim: to sock away money to help pay for recruit classes of 50 police officers and 30 firefighters next year as the city contends with declining ranks.

The latest estimates pin the cost at $4.2 million for the police officers and $500,000 for the firefighters. (The Indianapolis Fire Department is seeking a federal grant to cover most of its cost.)
Council President Maggie Lewis said that besides the CIB payment, Democrats also are eying about $13 million that remains in the city’s rainy day fund, as well as a stabilization fund that contains $80 million. Ballard created that fund last year using money from the utilities sale to help maintain the city’s AAA credit rating.
The image that has been developing in my head is one of a leaky boat with a captain who is using the spare wood to build a tiki bar.  That kind of sums up what I see the Ballard administration doing by creating TIFs to capture known private investment (aka Mass Ave TIF) instead of letting the coming property taxes flow to the schools and city alike, by not sunsetting TIFs, by the airport holding on to land that should be turned over to the tax rolls.  I think Ballard/Vaughn's game plan is to allow deterioration of police and  fire numbers in order to get the public to back new taxes.

I was disheartened after last night's budget amendments didn't contain any contractual raises for IFD and IMPD, nor funding for any recruit classes either.  While Murray doesn't note the raises, at least he let us know that the Democrats leading the Council are all for keeping the IFD and IMPD head counts from dropping further.

The CIB budget hearing will be held in room 107 of the city-county building, beginning at 5:30.  The DPW budget will be discussed at the same time in room 260.

Now, if we can only talk Murray into coordinating his time off with slow need-to-know news weeks....

Friday, October 5, 2012

Big Week Coming Up for Council As Democrats Try to Modify Ballard's Budget

The budget is different this year.  With divided government, the Democrats are reworking Mayor Ballard's budget so that their priorities are imprinted on 2013.  The full Council must adopt a final budget at their October 15 meeting - so next week is it for all of the budget segments to get out of committee.

At this point, all of the municipal corporation budgets are out except for the 2013 CIB budget. [edited to add: the CIB budget will be taken up on Thursday evening, 5:30 pm, in room 107 of the city-county building]   A special meeting of that committee will be called, but so far no notice has been sent out.  The Parks budget passed out of committee last night.  All the rest remain.

Here is the schedule as of right now:

Monday, October 8 - Metropolitan & Economic Development committee
budgets for Dept. Metropolitan Development and for Dept. Code Enforcement
also on the agenda are Prop 274 (urges the Metropolitan Development Commission to adopt the recommendations of the Council's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Study Commission), Prop 275 (urges the Indiana General Assembly to adopt certain recommendations of the Council's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Study Commission), and Prop 347 (which would approve $20 million of bonds from the downtown TIF to 'assist in the financing of the One America Garage')

Tuesday, October 9 - Admin & Finance committee
budgets for Office of Mayor, Office of Finance & Management, Office of Corporation Counsel, Office of Minority & Women Business Devel, Office of Audit & Performance, Election Board, Voter Registration, County Recorder, County Surveyor, Council, County Assessor, County Treasurer, Coutny Auditor, Noble of IN, MC Fair Board, MC Cooperative Extension, Regional Health & Mental Health Centers, WCTY, and Information Services Agency
also on the agenda is Prop 287 (to eliminate the local homestead credit from property tax bills)

Wednesday, October 10 - Public Safety & Criminal Justice committee
budgets for MC Prosecutor, MC Public Defender, Community Corrections, Circuit & Superior Court, County Clerk,  County Sheriff, County Coroner, Forensic Services Agency, Dept of Public Safety (homeland security, animal care, impd, ifd, iems)

Thursday, October 11 - Public Works committee
budget for the Dept Public Works
also on the agenda is Prop 315 (amends the Code to limit the number of citations for exceeding the
to deny a violation and request an administrative hearing by electronic mail or United State mail)
All of these meetings begin at 5:30 and are held in room 260 of the city-county building.

edited to add:
Thursday, October 11 - Muni Corps committee
budget for the CIB

this meeting will be at 5:30 and held in room 107 of the city-county building

Russ McQuaid Reports : "Neighbors Claim Airport is a "Bully" with Deep Pockets

Fox 59 investigative reporter, Russ McQuaid filed this yesterday:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Muni Corps Committee Trims Airport Budget

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, this phase of the budget season is usually dry and boring.  What with split government this year, we are seeing an attempt by the Democrats to change Mayor Ballard's introduced budget in significant ways.  But, still I was expecting the Muni Corps committee meeting to be dry and perfunctory.  Figuring I'd save myself a needless trip and parking fee, I emailed Chairman Monroe Gray and asked if there were going to be any amendments introduced.  Yes, he thought Councillor Lutz would be putting forth something.

Councillor Bob Lutz is a Republican, so what's up?  Could he be fiddling with the Airport's budget?  The airport got an earful from the public and a polite note of disagreement from the Councillors when they presented their budget in committee last week.  A key spark was the fact that the Airport Board had just decided to begin an appeal of Judge Keele's ruling against them in their lawsuit that tried to stop a Fast Park facility from being built in Ameriplex.

Well, they got more than that this time.

Lutz offered an amendment to cut their budget by $100,000; the cost of the appeal.  In a $161 million budget, they won't be left wounded or anything.   Through this cut, the Council would be sending a message that the continuation of this lawsuit is frowned upon.

Lutz and Councillor Jason Holliday share the airport in their districts.  Lutz on the Wayne side and Holliday on the Decatur.

Between them they laid out some of the history of the airport/Ameriplex/Fast Park story that I had not heard discussed in public before.  And it is telling.  Both the developer and Ameriplex approached the airport as soon as they thought there might be a good match in locating a Fast Park facility within the industrial park.  They wouldn't go any further if the airport had a problem with it.  The airport didn't have a problem.  The Mayor's office didn't have a problem.

Fast forward to  when plans were coming to fruition.  Indy Park Ride & Fly - an off airport parking facility that moved out of Marion County and into Plainfield when the new terminal opened - had hired an attorney who went door to door in the abutting neighborhood.  That attorney is now representing the airport in its lawsuit.

Lets face it, this lawsuit doesn't have merit.  Never did.  The airport is simply using its deep pockets to make it too expensive and too prolonged for Fast Park and Ameriplex to continue.  They want to drive a legitimate business out of Decatur Township.  They don't want the competition.  This governmental entity wants to kill off competitors in a free market.

Long story short,  the committee voted 4-3 to amend the airport's budget by $100,000.  Voting with the Decatur community were Councillors Lutz, Holiday, Cardwell, and Mahern.  Voting against were Councillors Gray, Talley, and Osili.

They also voted to send it to the full Council with a do-pass recommendation.  I could see Gray vote no, but could not tell who else may have joined him.

This is an important vote for Decatur Township.  We overwhelmingly want the Fast Park to be built.  It is not your granddad's parking facility; rather it is so green that it can teach the airport a thing or two about being environmentally responsible.  It would be located outside the TIF and bring much needed tax dollars to our schools and help move us toward a more balanced tax base.  It will spark the development of much need commercial property that will benefit the community at large and help Ameriplex attract more high salary tenants to the Purdue Research Park.

I want to thank Councillors Bob Lutz, Jason Holliday, Jeff Cardwell, and Brian Mahern for standing up with us and standing up for us.  Your support means a lot to us.

For those who are interested, I've embedded that part of the committee meeting from the WCTY archives below - it runs almost half an hour:

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