More Questions About "Honestly Balanced Budgets" Claim

Mayor Greg Ballard's re-election campaign boasts that each of his city budgets he has presented to the City-County Council for approval has been "honestly balanced", as opposed to the budgets adopted by his predecessor, Bart Peterson. At Monday night's council meeting, we finally got answers on why IMPD has been unable to pay for basic supplies, including toilet paper, note pads, pens, utilities and cell phone bills. The Public Safety Director's controller acknowledged that the administration intentionally budgeted less than what IMPD typically spends during a budget year for supplies with the understanding the Department would look to squeeze out cost savings to make up the difference. At the same time, we learned that IMPD spent more than a half million dollars on the Super Bowl preparations--remember, the event that wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime--leading to an exhaustion of the appropriation for supplies a little more than half way through the year. The Ballard administration sought permission to juggle funds around to cover the shortfall through the balance of the year, which left a deficit in IMPD's fund.

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews uncovered more funny business with the costs of paying for the Super Bowl. It seems that the Super Bowl Committee, not the City, retained the engineering firm that designed the Georgia Street project specifically to the Committee's and the NFL's specifications. After the bills were incurred, the Department of Public Works signed a contract with the Committee, formally known as "Our 2012 SB, Inc." to reimburse the Committee for $1,561,200 the Committee incurred in engineering fees with Crawford, Murphy & Tilley. The Georgia Street project, incidentally, is expected to cost taxpayers more than $12 million. Businesses along Georgia Street have complained of a dramatic drop in business during the cumbersome construction work that has taken place the past year, threatening their very survival even before the big event arrives. Oh yeah, and they're renaming the street to a name of their choosing.

Today, it was disclosed at the Marion County Sheriff's Pension Board meeting that the Ballard administration is not fully funding the pension plan of those officers who formerly worked for the sheriff's department but became a part of IMPD following the consolidation of the two law enforcement agencies in 2006. Under state law, if the minimum funding for the plan is not appropriated, the clock begins running on the plan's termination. If it remains funded at less than the minimum amount required by law for three consecutive years, the plan terminates by operation of law. There are presently more than 300 officers working for IMPD who are actually covered under the sheriff's pension plan. The Ballard 2012 budget includes full funding of IMPD's and IFD's pension plans unlike the sheriff's pension plan. Ballard's 2012 budget claims to fully fund the City's Public Safety Department's budget without any cuts by transferring $40 million in downtown TIF district reserve funds to cover an anticipated shortfall in the City's 2012 revenues. The Ballard administration is proposing at least $20 million in cuts elsewhere. By all accounts, the Super Bowl will be fully funded, even if basic city services must suffer to make that possible.

It should be pointed out that the state bailed out the City of Indianapolis in 2008 when it agreed to take over more than a half billion dollars in unfunded pension liability for the City's public safety officers. The Peterson administration had planned to use more than $20 million of the 2007, $90 million a year income tax increase to cover debt service on bonds it planned to issue to cover the unfunded pension liability before the state adopted a plan that capped property taxes while hiking state sales taxes a full percentage point to help cover the costs of local debts and obligations being picked up by the state. Peterson also planned to use the additional revenues to pay for public safety costs, including the hiring of more than 100 new police officers. Ballard never hired the 100 additional police officers Peterson promised to hire even with the income tax increase windfall the city received, let alone the 750 new police officers candidate Ballard promised he would hire four years ago, a promise that was never realistic. Ballard kept the windfall from the tax increase that sank Peterson's re-election bid four years ago rather than returning it to the taxpayers, making it much easier to balance the city's budget. Additionally, the state overpaid the City more than $20 million in income tax revenues that must now be made up in reduced future tax receipts. "Honestly balanced budgets?" Not hardly.