Monday, August 11, 2008

Mayor's Budget Plan To Return City To The Black

Mayor Greg Ballard inherited a budget deficit of $26 million from his predecessor, Bart Peterson, who had the benefit of $90 million in extra revenues from his 65% increase in the county option income tax increase. That means Ballard was left with some tough choices. True budget hawks, however, are going to be less than happy with Mayor Ballard's new budget. It calls for even higher spending than the current budget, reaching a record $1.1 billion. While some areas of the budget are being cut, the areas of the budget which represent the biggest portion of the budget are being increased significantly. That includes:

  • A 6%, or $12.6 million increase, for IMPD;
  • An 8%, or $7.2 million increase for the Fire Department;
  • A 12%, or $5.2 million increase for Metropolitan Development; and
  • A 2.5%, or $4.8 million increase for the Department of Public Works.

With such huge increases in the part of the City budget representing over 50% of the budget, the Mayor must rely on cuts elsewhere to produce a balanced budget while still spending about $45 million more than the current budget. He's asking Sheriff Anderson to absorb the biggest cut, $5.5 million, and the court system is asked to absorb more than $2 million in cuts. City Controller David Reynolds says Anderson is spending too much running the county jail compared to what a private contractor's costs are for operating Marion County Jail II. For those who follow such things, please note that the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg represents the private contractor which runs Jail II if the hint here is that Anderson should turn the main jail over to a private operator. As Brendan O'Shaughnessy's analysis in the Star notes today, Ballard's budget only appears to be balanced by removing $10.8 million in planned sewer capital improvements from next year's budget and projecting $3 million in savings from the elimination of township assessors, a measure which must be separately approved by voters in this November's election.

Ballard has proposed a budget which provides greater transparency in the way the Mayor's office is funded. In the past, Mayor Peterson hid most of the costs of his office in other budgets, allowing him to hide most of his expenditures. Ballard has proposed consolidating them into a single budget, which has resulted in a budget nearly 4 times the size of what Peterson disclosed to the public. This is a nice gesture on Ballard's part, but I would be less than honest if I said I was impressed by his budget proposal. This budget locks in spending for the biggest budget consumers, ensuring an ever-expanding city budget. The tax increases enacted by Mayor Peterson will never be rescinded with this approach to the budget. So much for all the talk of painful budget cuts.

UPDATE & CORRECTION: Press Secretary Marcus Barlow corrects the figures used in this report projecting a higher budget for 2009 over 2008. The Mayor's 2009 proposed budget projects a decrease in spending from $1,067,323,073 to $1,063,942,109, a decrease of almost $3.8 million, according to city budget figures. The Peterson 2008 budget, as noted above, had a deficit of $26 million because of under-estimated expenditures. O'Shaugnessy's story attributes a $45 million increase figure to the city controller.


M Theory said...

Gary, I'm not sure about everyone else, but I would love for you to go into a deeper analysis of how we can trim the spending even more. I am also interested in learning more about the CIB and that dark hole of our money.

Around town I'm hearing the republican party of marion county now called "The Bob Grand Old Party".

We've got to unclench the "elites" from our money.

Bart Lies said...

Marcus BARLOW.