Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ballard Plans To Hike Property Taxes On Homeowners To Close Budget Deficit

Things really have come full circle for the Tea Party candidate of 2007 who upset incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson by campaigning against rising property taxes. Back then, Ballard called for a total elimination of the property tax. Today, Ballard is proposing to do away with the homestead tax credit to pull in an additional $8 million to close an estimated $50-60 million budget deficit. That's about the size of the annual subsidy the mayor has been providing to billionaire Herb Simon for his Indiana Pacers in consideration for all the free tickets and campaign contributions Simon furnishes to the mayor and his family. Ballard will rely on budget gimmicks to close much of the remaining budget gap. He will tap $20 million from the $30 million the state's Department of Revenue returned to the city after figuring out that it had shortchanged the city its share of local income tax revenues. Ballard will draw down reserve funds another $21 million and tap $10 million from a downtown TIF district. Ironically, the mayor is demanding that the city-county council approve a major expansion of TIF districts that will further erode the property tax base as his administration struggles to piece together funding for basic city services without deep cuts.

According to the Star's Jon Murray, Ballard is proposing an increase in the mayor's staff budget from $3.7 million to $5 million, a move his office claims represents an "accounting change," not increased spending. Ballard came under fire when we recently discovered that he had doled out double-digit pay raises to 14 members of his staff at a time when he's asking other city agencies to cut their budgets. Police are being asked to raise about $1.4 million in revenues by paying a fuel fee on their take-home cars. Police and firefighters are being asked to give up their scheduled 3% pay raise. Ballard, however, wants authority to dole out up to $2.6 million in merit-based raises for nonunion municipal employees. City agencies would be allowed to increase salaries up to 3% based on performance. Ballard has achieved savings in the public safety budget by not filling vacancies or promised new positions. The city could be forced to pay back millions of dollars it received from the federal government in the form of a grant to hire 50 additional police officers because those positions were never filled.

Pat Andrews has a good analysis of what Ballard's budget means at Had Enough Indy?

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