Monday, March 20, 2006

Mayor Peterson Has Some Explaining To Do

Mayor Bart Peterson (D) assured Indianapolis residents that they would realize an annual savings of $9 million if the city-county council adopted his plan to merge the Indianapois Police Department and the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department. It seems that Mayor Peterson based his projected savings on sheriff's department employees being able to opt out of social security as IPD employees have been able to do since it's own pension system was established under an older law. There's just one small problem, you can't do it now.

The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy tells readers today that this blunder on Peterson's part will result in a loss of nearly $4 million instead of a projected savings of $1.3 million as forecast by Peterson's administration. The result means that even more law enforcement officers will have to be laid off, or taxes will have to be increased.

The Indiana Public Employees Retirement Fund has requested an advisory opinion from the Social Security Administration to determine if the sheriff's department employees can opt out. However, the Star reports that a similar request by Louisville officials was met with a denial several years ago. O'Shaughnessy wrote, "In Louisville, which merged city and county government in 2003, federal officials said public employees in Social Security could not opt out of the program, according to Mark Miller, a Louisville police union attorney. Miller said he saw no reason why Indiana would be treated any differently."

Indianapolis relied heavily on the experience of Louisville in pushing the merger plan. How could this major detail have been overlooked by the Peterson administration? We're all for the merger, but you have to be straight with folks about these things. This raises the question of whether Peterson intentionally inflated the numbers to make the merger plan look more attractive to council members? Can you imagine Democrats' reaction if we learned at some point in the near future that the State was only getting $1.7 billion from the lease of the toll road instead of the $3.4 billion promised?

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