Peterson boasted that he had implemented $83 million in spending cuts since he's been mayor, and that he's ordered $13 million in new cuts. The Mayor was originally scheduled to detail those cuts tonight, but his staff announced a short time before tonight's meeting his administrative agency heads needed more time to work out the details. He claims the mergers of fire departments and law enforcement agencies have netted taxpayers more than $20 million in savings. And he even boasted that he is collecting less in property taxes from you to support city-county services than when he first took office. He says he's going to reduce property tax-funded services by another $50 million, or an 11% reduction. Thanks to that $90 million, 65% increase in your local option income tax, he thinks you should be happy property tax levies for all taxing districts except schools will be frozen for 2 years. He'll add another 100 police officers he says. Does that mean simply filling the 145 vacant positions already existing in the department and calling them new officers? He's ended early releases he says, but the truth is the changes implemented last year kept folks from being locked up in the first instance for a number of criminal charges upon which they were previously held because they couldn't afford the bail, negating the need for early releases. But let's not confuse folks with the facts.
On the question of facts, Mayor Peterson complained about "politically-charged myths masquerading as facts" surrounding this year's property tax debacle. First, he blamed all the township assessors for not properly assessing businesses, thereby causing a big shift to homeowners. Secondly, he blamed the state for implementing the "fair market value" property tax assessment method pursuant to court order, a 6-year lag since the last reassessment, the use of trending, the elimination of the inventory tax, a freeze on the property tax replacement credit and a change in the school aid formula. Essentially, he accepted responsibility for nothing.
Now, Mayor Peterson needs to explain what happened to the new revenues he raised from his first COIT increase from 0.7% to 1.0%, a 43% or $42 million annual increase. Before we could even figure that out, he got another $90 million annual increase in the COIT. While Mayor Peterson likes to brag that his portion of property tax revenues represented only 3% of the amount collected, his policies greatly impact the taxes levied by other taxing districts. His administration has awarded hundreds of millions in property tax abatements affecting all taxing districts, and a growing number of TIF districts are capturing growth in new property tax revenues to the detriment of other taxing districts. That results in a major shift in tax burden from the businesses receiving the benefit of these tax breaks to other taxpayers. It's easy to blame the schools for increasing your property taxes, but they have no other choice than to collect more from other taxpayers when the administration removes part of the base from the only source of taxes they receive--the property tax. Mayor Peterson omitted the more than $300 million the state has reimbursed Marion Co. for property tax abatement incentives to lessen the impact. Moreover, Mayor Peterson has taken the city deeply into debt over the past 8 years--a 1000% plus increase--thereby putting a further strain on city finances.
For someone who has had 8 years to get the city's finances in order and fight the war on crime, Mayor Peterson demonstrated tonight a complete lack of accountability for what ills the city. It was offensive and insulting to the city's residents. If the city's voters fall for the line of crap the Mayor fed them tonight, they deserve the worst government Peterson has proven himself all too capable of delivering to them.
Marion Co. GOP Chairman complained in a press release tonight that Mayor Peterson turned his address into a campaign rally by stacking the audience with his employees while locking out members of the public from the City-County Building. "It is despicable that Peterson would go to such lengths to stifle the public to try to make himself look good,” John stated. “Peterson reiterated past proposals of how he will spend his $90 million dollar tax increase. The remainder of his presentation was devoted to blaming Governor Daniels and the General Assembly for not doing more to allow Peterson to spend more without raising property taxes,” stated John. “Peterson told us nothing about how he will get his budget under control, a budget that has expanded by over $300 million since he took office.”
Similarly, GOP mayoral candidate Greg Ballard accused Mayor Peterson of making a campaign speech instead of addressing a financial crisis. He released this statement:
The citizens of Indianapolis have been waiting for weeks to learn how the Mayor will curb out-of-control spending, the root cause of skyrocketing tax rates. Instead, Bart Peterson took a pass. The Mayor promised budget cuts weeks ago. We have not seen a single one. Instead, we learn that the Mayor's Budget will increase once again. To say the Mayor's presentation was disappointing would be an understatement the size of Peterson's budget deficit.
What we saw tonight was not a budget presentation; it was a campaign speech. Bart Peterson tried to tell us of all the "wonderful" things he has done for the city and assures us he will make it all better. The people of Indianapolis know better. The budget has increased over $300 million since he took office. He has raised taxes 18 times in two years. Bond debt is up over 3000% to pay for even more spending. Bart Peterson has failed in managing our city's finances, and the people have had enough.