Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Councilors Wave Magic Wand And Find $2.5 Million For Libraries And IndyGo

Facing a firestorm of public criticism for diverting tens of millions of dollars in excess property tax funds to give billionaire Herb Simon a $33.5 million gift for agreeing not to break his long-term lease and move the Pacers out of the city, and to fund a private downtown redevelopment project intended to benefit Eli Lilly, City-County Council leaders magically find $2.5 million to offer the city's libraries and the IndyGo bus system with the caveat that those two entities agree to drop property tax appeals cases to levy higher property taxes to make up for their budget shortfalls. What is the source of this new found money? Why yes, it's a tax increment financing district. You know, the source just a week ago Mayor Ballard's administration insisted couldn't be tapped to fund the libraries and IndyGo. The Star's Will Higgins explains this latest magical act performed by the grand wizards to keep the serfs in line:

Library staffers would keep their retirement benefits, but operating hours at the branches would remain pared down under a budget proposal to be voted on today by a key City-County Council committee.

A bipartisan group of council leaders on Monday agreed to recommend adding $1 million to the library's 2011 budget, partially offsetting the library's property tax shortfall appeal request for $1.8 million.

The group's plan also would provide IndyGo with the $1.5 million it initially sought in its shortfall appeal.

The aim of a shortfall appeal is to make up for declines in revenue resulting from the state's tax caps.

The council committee proposal would require the agencies to drop their appeal requests . . .

The money would come from a fund created in the 1990s to service debt from a tax-increment financing district that helped finance the former United Airlines maintenance hub at Indianapolis International Airport.

Under the proposed deal, the funding source would be recurring for the library but a one-time-only fix for the bus service.

Today, the council's seven-member Municipal Corporations Committee will consider the library and IndyGo budgets -- $37.9 million and $55.1 million, respectively -- as well as the larger annual budget of the Capital Improvement Board.

The CIB's proposed $73.1 million operating budget for 2011 has come under fire because it includes the second of three annual $10 million payments to the Indiana Pacers, part of a $33.5 million deal struck over the summer.

Finding the extra $2.5 million for the library and the bus service is a matter of "moving stuff around," said Jackie Nytes, a Democratic member of the committee who helped craft Monday's deal along with Republican Ryan Vaughn, the council's president. "It's not getting any new money.

"This just buys us time to go to the Statehouse" to lobby for flexibility in seeking new, long-term funding mechanisms.
Naturally, Democratic City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes is on the scene to act as a foil for the Ballard administration. It's the least she can do in consideration for the millions the Ballard administration has directed to the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation she runs and the printing contracts her husband's printing business has received. CCC President Ryan Vaughn is telling folks the council is just repaying money originally loaned to support the TIF fund by other taxing districts. Well, duh, wasn't that always the case with TIF funds? And one has to wonder why this money has been sitting out there all these years after the United Airlines maintenance hub, which received hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies from the state and the city, closed its operation and threw thousands of high-paid mechanics out of work. So much for the transparency in budgeting Greg Ballard promised when he was elected mayor.

UPDATE: The Municipal Corporations Committee, which is dominated by a group of self-serving politicians, bought into this magical act and padded themselves on the backs for such a show of bipartisanship. Phooey. This is another backroom, smoke-and-mirrors budget gimmick to provide more money to IndyGo and the libraries to cover up the fact that they fully endorse using our property tax revenues to fund the CIB and its multi-million dollar give-aways to the state's wealthiest citizens. Pat Andrews comments to the councilors were spot on. It is monkey business. And yes, property taxpayers surrounding the airport are bailing out the libraries and IndyGo, and the downtown elites aren't sacrificing one freaking dime to the cause. Controller David Reynolds, the handpicked pawn of Joe Loftus and Bob Grand, insults our intelligence by insisting this process has been transparent and totally out in the open. If the people of this county don't rise up and toss every single member of this city council out of office in next year's elections, you deserve the absolute worst government we get from these self-dealers that populate our city-county council. There is not one member of this committee who doesn't rely on government in some fashion. Rivera and his employer's government contracts, Lutz and his ownership interest in a city contractor, Cardwell as a community development corporation leader and city contractor, Nytes and the millions of dollars flowing to her community development corporation and contracts to her husband's printing business, Lewis and her state grant-giving job, Mahern and his city job, and Malone, who we are still investigating to determine what caused her to lose her independent streak and begin voting down-the-line with the corrupt Ballard administration. Not one person on the committee represents ordinary taxpayers. Not one.

UPDATE II: Paul Okeson introduces himself tonight as the president of the CIB. Ann Lathrop presented the budget at the last meeting as the president and presided over the most recent CIB meeting. What happened? Dane Mahern says he's voting against the CIB's budget because he says things are happening over which the council has no control but should have control. Jackie Nytes, after pretending to take a hard line against the CIB at the budget hearing, lauded the CIB for its great cost-reducing ways. She cited phony headcount reductions for this claim. What she failed to explain was how many of these positions were temp positions. She also engaged in phony hand-wringing, suggesting she considered for a moment cutting the CIB's budget but decided it was just too complicated to do, which means it is more important to her that the money keep flowing to her CDC and her husband's printing business. Lutz says he'll vote to send it to the full council but will wait to decide until it is voted on by the full council to say whether he'll vote for the CIB's budget. He said he considered at one time offering an amendment to limit how much it spends on professional sports, but he decided the council had no such authority to do this. He says if he voted against the CIB's budget it would amount to a $10 million gift to Herb Simon rather than a $30 million loan. Translated, that means he will vote for it's final passage if the Ballard administration needs his vote for passage.


Unknown said...

Now if the city would only pay the library, Indygo and IPS the funds that should have been due them in property taxes but were captured in TIF districts and PILOT payments by the water company transfer, they'd be in good shape.

Those entities should sue over the PILOT provisions in the water company transfer. Citizen's gas is prohibited from making those payments as taxes - as they do with the rest of their property- because then a portion of that money would go to schools, libraries and IPS.

Central Indiana Jobs with Justice said...

Jobs with Justice and Unite HERE are organizing another protest tonight, and have encouraged supporters of the Put Communities First Campaign to call their councilor today. We can't be tricked by this new pot of money. It does not solve the problem and perpetuates the shell game. Protestors will gather at 5:00 at the tables outside City Market to distribute signs and props, as we've been informed that Chair Malone is not going to allow public comments..

Blog Admin said...

IndyGo and the library I agree with James, but not IPS. We've been throwing money at it for decades and it hasn't helped one bit.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I agree IPS has been wasting money for years. But I would rather see the money go for the parks, the library, the bus system, anything but the "arts."

Downtown Indy said...

Sure is a lotta slush around, and it isn't even winter.

dcrutch said...

It seems like it's getting worse. Both parties, seemingly all entities-CIB, Mayor's office, councilmen, nearly everybody has their hand in the cookie jar.

Has it always been this way & it didn't got publicized? This is standard procedure? Or, the collective character of our elected and appointed representatives has really gone downhill?

If it's "always been this way", why did we have a hole in the ground instead of Circle Center Mall for years?