Hogsett’s ‘structurally balanced budget’ sparks debate

The Indianapolis city controller and a Republican City-County Council member clashed Thursday night over whether Mayor Joe Hogsett’s proposed city budget was truly “structurally balanced.”

Hogsett’s team has been touting the proposed 2018 city budget as the “first balanced budget with sustainable funding sources since 2008,” meaning that it doesn’t rely on one-time revenue sources or management reserves to pay bills.

Hogsett’s budget plan calls for revenue and expenditures of roughly $1.13 billion each—with an expected $211,007 surplus.

But Republican council member Jeff Miller took issue with the administration’s decision to not include as part of the budget the city’s plan to eventually spend $16 million in county option income tax revenue that last year was returned to Indianapolis by the state.

The administration later plans to separately ask the council for a fiscal ordinance approving the spending of that money to pay for infrastructure projects, something that Miller said could unnecessarily delay road improvements for the only purpose of making a political statement about the budget not including one-time revenue sources.

“I just don’t see the advantage of that if the only reason is we can say we’re structurally balanced,” Miller said. “We’re running a risk here [of road projects being delayed] because of what I consider an unnecessary move."

City Controller Fady Quaddoura said it wouldn’t affect the surplus if the planned $16 million in revenue and corresponding spending was included in the budget. Plus, he said the administration is "truly not opposed to putting it in the budget" if council members prefer that route.

“It doesn’t really have an impact on the revenue-surplus conversation,” Quaddoura said.

Quaddoura also said he didn’t believe it would affect the timing of road projects.

Council Vice President Zach Adamson, a Democrat, said he is comfortable with the way the administration has presented the budget, and said the questions were “arguing the semantics" because they didn't change the fact that the city was slated to end the year with a surplus.

“It was getting into the political realm,” Adamson said. “I don’t think that’s a healthy debate to go into. At the end of the day, if they’re putting one-time funding into the budget, but it has an attached [one-time] expenditure, it’s a wash.”

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