City to cut $20 million from most departments in 2012

Indianapolis will reduce its work force by 200 positions through attrition next year to help cut $20 million from non-public safety agencies in its 2012 budget.

The cuts were highlighted Thursday afternoon in a preview of the budget to be presented to the City-County Council on Monday. They result from a $19 million drop in income-tax revenue, relatively flat property taxes and increased costs for expenditures such as employee health care and fuel.

Mayor Greg Ballard called the roughly $1.1 billion budget the “tightest in years.”

The city will flat-line spending for public safety agencies such as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Department. No police officers or firefighters will be laid off, and there will be a police recruit class, albeit a small one.

The city also plans to transfer $40 million from its downtown tax-increment financing district to the city-county budget, a move that city finance officials said won’t impact the district’s reserves or debt-coverage ratio.

Another $4 million will be transferred from the budget of the Capital Improvement Board to cover the cost of providing public safety for the 2012 Super Bowl.

While Ballard said the city faced a tough financial picture, he emphasized that Indianapolis has been spared the more dramatic cuts faced by cities such as Trenton, N.J., Cleveland and Memphis.

“We’ve been able to avoid dramatic [reductions] at this point,” Ballard said.

When pressed about cuts the city might see–other than personnel–Ballard and City Controller Jeff Spalding wouldn’t detail specifics, but said it’s left up to department managers to find efficiencies. They did, however, say the cuts would not make a noticeable impact on city services.

Ballard said there could be a “small degradation” in some services–for example, a phone call to a city agency might not be answered as quickly, but he underscored that city services “are better than they’ve ever been.”

The city projects revenue will remain flat in 2013 but will start to increase starting in 2014.

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