Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Property Tax Revenues Flow To Fund CIB For The First Time In Its History

No longer can Mayor Greg Ballard cling to his claim the Capital Improvement Board is funded entirely with dedicated revenue sources unrelated to property taxes. Because of a secretive interlocal agreement (drafted by Barnes & Thornburg) his administration entered into earlier this month between the Metropolitan Development Commission and the CIB, an agreement completely ignored by our local news media, property tax revenues to the tune of $8 million annually are now dedicated to the CIB. As Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy explains:

With this agreement, property tax dollars are now flowing to the CIB. These are new dollars. They amount to $8 million per year on an ongoing basis. The only new expenses of the CIB are the operation of the expanded convention center and the $10 million cash gift to the Pacers. It is completely reasonable to connect these dots and see property tax dollars flowing from the City of Indianapolis to the Pacers.

These property tax dollars could be used to pay off the bond obligations of the TIF district early, or to promote $8 million in new projects. Such a project could even include upgrading parking meters in the downtown area.

But, no. The Pacers are given higher priority by Mayor Ballard, than being fiscally responsible in paying off debt, or fiscally responsible in crafting an upgrade to the parking meter project, or underwriting some other deserving project in the downtown area that would actually make Indianapolis a better place to live. The Council should reject the $10 million gift in the 2011 CIB budget and let the CIB and MDC unwind this agreement.
By the use of this shell game, the Ballard administration gets to use property tax revenues to fund the CIB, which has no statutory property tax levying authority. This diversion of property tax dollars comes at the very same time the library is reducing hours of operation for the library branches to close a budget gap, the parks department has been closing public pools and reducing the season of operation for others and city-county agencies across the board have been asked to implement 5% budget reductions due to fewer income and property tax revenues projected to be available for the 2011 budget.

People need to fully grasp the ramifications of funneling property tax revenues to the CIB through the backdoor. The Ballard administration has been completely disingenuous from day one to the taxpayers of this city concerning its funding of the CIB. We have raised taxes for the CIB, we have obtained additional state funding for the CIB and we've borrowed money from the State of Indiana to fund the CIB. Now we're diverting property tax revenues intended for an entirely different use to fund the CIB. It is now abundantly clear the Ballard administration will stop at nothing, including breaking every campaign promise he made as a candidate in 2007, to put funding for the CIB ahead of all other city-county agencies. It is also pathetic that news of this, like so many other budgeting and policy-making decisions of our local government, must be brought to the fore by citizen bloggers. The news media refuses to do its job and simply regurgitates nearly word-for-word the talking points handed to them by the Ballard administration whether it's the transfer of our city-owned utilities, the leasing of our City's parking meters or the nonstop shell game financing of the CIB. The citizens of this community must never let Mayor Ballard forget the fundamental breach of trust he has committed with the taxpayers of this community: Read his lips. NO PROPERTY TAX REVENUES WILL BE USED TO FUND THE CIB.

In light of the Ballard administration's push for its one-sided parking lease agreement in favor of ACS, a key point Pat Andrews makes in her blog post should not be overlooked. As she notes, $8 million is pretty close to what the Ballard administration says ACS will invest up front in new high-tech parking meters it will operate at great profit to the company over the 50-year life of its lease agreement. The Ballard administration claimed the City lacked a funding source to purchase new meters itself and could only acquire meters with the latest technology by entering into this long-term lease with ACS. Now we know the Ballard administration had a source of funding for those high-tech meters; it simply chose to use that money to fund the CIB instead of investing in city-owned high-tech meters that could generate a significant amount of new revenues for the City without giving away the store to ACS.


Downtown Indy said...

God, how much more stupid can this administration get?

The 'cap' on property taxes has already impacted (and I'm glad it has) the rampant moneygrab of the public school system. It encouraged the library system to cut back the low-utilization days.

We have a somewhat controlled property tax system at last, and the mayor jumps on that to feed the CIB monster!

It's enough to give me apoplexy.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Thanks for the link, Gary.

One small correction, though. The CIB can levy property taxes (IC 36-10-9-6), they just choose not to do so. I believe all of the municipal corporations have this authority, but the CIB and the Airport Authority get their revenue from other taxes and fees.

Cato said...

From an accounting standpoint, I completely reject the idea of separate governmental pots. The government merely claims taxes go into specific pots so it can convince us that we need to fill all these pots, while boasting that no one pot is taking too much of our money.

Phooey. The government is a single pot. If the Simons or Irsays ever got a dime of public money, they got a dime from all the public.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Pat, I believe the enabling statute simply allows them to receive tax revenues from difference sources, including property taxes. There are separate statutes concerning food & beverage taxes, hotel tax and car rental tax imposed for the benefit of the CIB. I don't believe there is any specific statute that permits the CIB to levy a property tax.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Like Cato, I say, "phooey" too, but unlike Downtown Indy, I would like for the library and branches to be open more hours, and for there to be more branches and book mobiles. Thanks for this exposure of Ballard, again, Pat and Gary. Hopefrully our knowing the truth will do us some good.

dcrutch said...

We raised taxes, received additional state funding, borrowed additional money from the state, and are now diverting property tax revenues intended for entirely different uses- ALL to fund the CIB.

The CIB ISN'T tasked with educating children, fixing streets or sewers, or staffing police or fire departments. It isn't responsible for keeping libraries open, parks and swimming pools maintained, or parking handled downtown.

ALL the CIB is associated with (correct me if I'm wrong), is sports, conventions, public events, and the facilities and management associated with them.
NONE of which are essential city functions.

WHY is the CIB taking property tax money for things like a fancier scoreboard for the Pacers, when we can't graduate more than half our kids downtown or keep our libraries open?

Cato is right. Government doesn't care what label is on the pots. They're ransacking all the way from D.C. to Indianapolis, social security to property taxes.

If you believe that fiscal limits are reality instead of fantasy, then I suggest this November is the most important election in our lifetime. Be deliberative, and bring a friend to the polls with you.