Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ballard To Rely On Property Tax Increases To Balance City's Budget

Apparently Ballard has decided he will rely on property tax increases in next year's budget to close what he claims is a $55 million budget deficit. For the record, I believe the $55 million budget deficit is made up out of whole cloth. I realize that figures never lie but liars always figure. That was precisely what happened when we were told several years ago that the Capital Improvement Board required a state bailout that included several tax increases to close a supposed deficit that ranged from $50-$60 million according to varying estimates. What we later learned was that the CIB leadership flat out lied about its financial picture in order to provide a pool of money to spend on new priorities like the Super Bowl and more than $40 million in new subsidies for billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers. Nobody on the City-County Council or in the media ever called them out on it so I don't expect to see anything different occur this time.

What we know is that the Ballard administration, with the City-County Council's blessing, has deliberately shrunk the City's property tax base by foolishly expanding TIF areas to include some of the most prosperous areas of the city in order to enrich the slush funds that are used to finance crony capitalism that rewards private developers who bankroll the politicians' campaigns and lavish gifts and other freebies on them. These same people then have the audacity to turn to the taxpayers and tell them that there isn't enough money for public safety and other basic city services because they aren't paying enough in taxes.

Ballard will levy additional property taxes by eliminating the homestead property tax credit, which will net the City's budget about $11.5 million but cost other local governments likes schools about $4 to $5 million in lost revenues. Ballard also proposes extending IMPD's taxing districts beyond the old city limits to include the rest of Marion County, except for Beech Grove, Lawrence, Speedway and Southport. That will allow the City to cut its tax levy in the old city limits. That won't necessarily translate into lower property taxes. For taxpayers who have reached the tax cap, some of that savings from the lower city levy will be gobbled up by other taxing districts to get back to the cap. That's clearly the intent since the City will only net $3 million from the change.

So you might wonder how those two changes close the $55 million budget deficit since they add up to less than $15 million. According to a story in the Star by Jon Murray, the Ballard administration plans to tap $25 million from operating reserves "to help balance what originally was an expected $55 million deficit. The Ballard administration says that $12.8 million of the new revenues will be used to provide additional money for IMPD's budget. The Ballard administration notes that it expanded its tax levy for the fire district to include suburban areas as it absorbed township fire department into IFD but did not do the same when it absorbed the sheriff's department law enforcement responsibilities for the suburban areas into IMPD, instead relying exclusively on the local income tax to fund those additional services. Firefighters and police are scheduled to get 3% raises under their current contracts, which the administration hopes to renegotiate. A vehicle surcharge on take-home cars is also supposed to generate $1.4 million. Ballard also plans to cut spending by the sheriff's department about $5 million.

Once again, the reporter pretends the other tax increase he reported on earlier in the week, a more than doubling of stormwater fees paid on property owners property tax bills, isn't anywhere in the mix. Yesterday, Ballard boasted that he would spend $350 million on infrastructure improvements by borrowing $130 million and spending from the Rebuild Indy fund, which was funded with proceeds the City received from the sale of the sewer and water utilities but is being spent on street improvements, a sports park where cricket can be played and whatever other wasted expenditure Ballard can imagine. Ballard also continues to push for state legislative approval to hike local income taxes to fund a metropolitan mass transit boondoggle being pushed by the pay-to-play contractors who are demanding more return on the money they invested in the corrupt politicians' campaigns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's cash out time for this administration as they know they won't win once hogsett finishes filing indictments on the rest of the corrupt republican plutarchy.