Thursday, August 07, 2014

Don't Try Confusing Mayor Ballard With The Facts On His Pre-K Tax And Spend Plan

Mayor Greg Ballard has completely failed in his biggest campaign promise when he first ran for mayor in 2007: To make public safety job one. After the recent spike in the homicide rate and other crime stats, Ballard rushed to announce a plan to plug holes in his crumbling dam with wads of chewing gum. The centerpiece of his plan is to raise $25 million over the next five years to provide $5 million a year to fund early childhood education programs for about 1,300 children from lower income households. That will match $25 million the state has agreed to provide during that same period locally as part of a pilot program. Ballard's plan calls for the elimination of the homestead property tax credit, which will provide the City about $7 million a year in additional revenues from higher taxes on property owners.

What Ballard and the news media don't want you to realize is that the elimination of the homestead property tax credit actually reduces property tax revenues collected by local school districts in Marion County by at least $3 million a year. The annual hit to IPS is at least $600,000. That's money the school districts use to fund transportation and capital projects. During a photo op at an IPS pre-school with Supt. Dr. Louis Ferebee this week to tout his plan, radio talk show host Amos Brown sought to draw attention to this issue. Dr. Ferebee didn't challenge the revenue loss from the elimination of the homestead property tax credit. He attempted to deflect the issue by saying IPS would be able to divert money from its general operating budget funded by state tax dollars to offset any potential revenue loss. Interestingly, Dr. Ferebee noted that part of the problem IPS had in getting better participation rates in its current pre-K program is the inability to provide transportation for participating children. On a hope and a prayer, he thinks new matching funds will make-up for any lost revenues.

Amos Brown questioned Ballard about the fairness of raising property taxes on just some homeowners to pay for his pre-K plan as opposed to all city taxpayers. Ballard was dismissive of Brown's fairness suggestion, saying they're still working on a long-term funding plan for expanding early childhood education opportunities. "We know generally what we want to do . . . what's fair is that these kids get educated." The fact that no additional taxes will be collected from renters, homeowners who have already reached the property tax caps and businesses was inconsequential to Ballard. The media and the press have already forgotten the property tax increase enacted last year that raised an additional $5 million by extending IMPD's tax levy outside the old city limits. Ballard will also raise your income taxes another 10% this year to raise another $20 million supposedly to hire more police officers, a promise he will no more keep than the one made to you when your income taxes were raised 65% in 2007 to hire more police officers. We actually wound up with fewer police officers than we had before that tax increase.

In Ballard's mind, spending more money on early childhood education without question improves overall academic achievement standards and leads to a reduction in juvenile crime. "The data is pretty clear on all of this," Ballard said. "These kids have a lot better shot of having a successful life if we do this . . .We're taking a bold step here." Really? Early childhood education has been around since LBJ's "Great Society" plan to end all poverty in the country was introduced in the mid-1960s with the birth of Head Start. As that program has been remade and grown over the past 50 years, along with added new programs at the state and local level, education standards have fallen and juvenile crime has skyrocketed. Some of the dated studies relied upon by the Ballard administration to tout the benefits of expanding early childhood opportunities has been thoroughly discredited by other more recent studies. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden discusses one of those studies here, which summarizes the point well.

At least one reporter didn't ignore the elephant in the room at Mayor Ballard's photo op this week: "How is this going to help crime now?." Again, Ballard could offer no defense to the point that any new spending today on educating three and four year-olds will have absolutely no impact on crimes being committed by junior high and high school-aged children. "I don't listen to things like that," Ballard said. "This is just so obvious." No, it's not at all obvious, Mayor Ballard. If early childhood education was a panacea for reducing the drop-out rate and juvenile delinquency problem of at-risk youth, then why has the nearly $10 billion a year in federal funding and billions more in state and local spending annually across the country for Head Start and early childhood education failed so miserably? Let's just admit what all early childhood education spending has always been about--spreading childcare costs around to the population at large. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't reduce poverty. It doesn't reduce the number of children being born into single-parent families. It doesn't improve long-term academic achievement. And it sure as hell doesn't reduce juvenile crime.

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) and U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indianapolis) joined Mayor Ballard for a press conference today where both appeared to endorse Ballard's tax and spend plan on early childhood education to reduce crime. After the press conference, however, Carson put out a statement distancing himself from Ballard's proposal and criticizing him for not applying for continued federal COPS grant funding. Brooks' unabashed support proves once again that she's as fake of a Republican as Ballard is. It's even more insulting that she endorses raising taxes on Marion County taxpayers when she and her husband, who have become multi-millionaires through political insider trading that has allowed them to move on up into a two million dollar home in a gated community in Carmel, won't pay a dime of those higher taxes.


Anonymous said...

Ballard-Straub is WRONG!

Ballard-Straub-Carson is just what they want...TAX AND SPEND.

The construction industry gets rich and the people pay for more bike lanes in Broad Ripple, a 'Criminal Justice Center' that gets criminals out of Downtown so they can build more taxPAYER funded luxury condos/apartments.

Want more rip-off bike-shares? Want more electric car stands taking up downtown PRIME PARKING????

Ballard needs to retire and read his own book on small unit leadership, because he forgot everything in it.

Anonymous said...

As usual, Ballard has the critical thinking skills and debating ability of a five-year-old child.

Also, you have a typo in there, unless Andre Carson suddenly switched parties.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Freudian slip. I'm sure Carson's post press conference press release followed several outraged phone calls from Democrats.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mitch Daniels was visionary in figuring out how to lower property taxes that had gotten out of control. I hate that slick politicians figure out how to add things on to our property tax bills. I don't think senior citizens or the disabled should have to pay property taxes at all. But this business of making homeowners pay for early childhood expenses when business and all these nonprofits get a pass is unequal taxation and I don't think it would pass a legal challenge.

Flogger said...

This is a Day-Care Program. I understand Mayor Ballard wants the United Way of Central Indiana administer the program. I suppose the Religious Establishment will be there with their hands out to fund their Day-Care Centers and inculcate the children with their Religious Dogma.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I'm sure there will be some church-run organizations lining up for money, but I suspect you will see a bunch of private education profiteers in the mix as well. Pence wouldn't be providing the state funding for it unless there was some guaranteed money for his campaign contributors.