Hogsett’s $1.17B budget passes City-County Council by unanimous vote

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s third budget for the city of Indianapolis earned a bipartisan nod from the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night, passing the chamber unanimously.

The $1.17 billion budget, which passed 24-0, calls for the administration to end the 2019 fiscal year with a $400,000 surplus. The city’s revenue projections hinge on bringing in $19 million more than last year in income tax collections and $4 million more in property tax collections.

The administration plans to spend $126 million on roads and bridges in 2019, about $30 million more than is slated to be spent this year. The increase in spending comes from a related proposal to issue debt to pay for infrastructure. The council also approved on Monday night a plan to spend the proceeds of $30 million in revenue bonds to pay for street, road, bridge, sidewalk and traffic signals.

Hogsett’s budget mostly holds the line on spending. But it calls for hiring at least 120 new police officers, 80 more firefighters and four more animal care and control officers. The city also plans to acquire new IT software for the police department, open a mediation center to help diffuse conflict in neighborhoods and expand early-voting sites for upcoming elections.

It also spends $2 million on the city’s new Indy Achieves program, which will provide scholarships for people pursuing high-quality degrees or certificates. 

In a written statement, Hogsett said the budget “increases neighborhood investment and prioritizes taxpayer-friendly policies over partisanship."

“The 2019 budget fully funds two new IMPD recruit classes, increases investment in community-based violence reduction strategies, and funds $126 million in road, bridge, and sidewalk infrastructure projects next year,” Hogsett said in the statement. “Further, the Council has helped launch the Indy Achieves initiative, which will ensure that every Marion County resident has the high-quality degree or credential they need to compete in a 21st-century economy.”

The budget passed after very little council discussion. 

Republicans said they voted for the proposal over concerns about the sheriff’s office, which is currently undergoing an audit. IBJ reported Oct. 3 that the preliminary results of an audit conducted for the city of Indianapolis found the sheriff’s office is not funded adequately to complete its designated functions without implementing budget efficiencies.

As demand for services has increased, the audit found that overtime costs at the department have risen dramatically, growing 128 percent, from $2.1 million in 2015 to $4.8 million in 2017.

Republican council member John Wesseler said “the sheriff’s office has not attempted to rectify any of the issues they have.”

“They continue to muddle on,” said Wesseler, who added he supported the budget despite those concerns.

Meanwhile, Democrats cheered the budget as a sign of bipartisanship on the council.

“I am very appreciative of the hard work Mayor Hogsett and his administration put into this budget plan, and proud that the Indianapolis City-County Council has now passed two consecutive structurally balanced budgets,” council President Vop Osili said in a written statement. “More than that, I am pleased that this budget reflects strategic investments in public safety, infrastructure, and education that will benefit Indianapolis residents for years to come.”

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