With homicides rising for a third straight year, a City-County council task force is recommending $29 million in tax hikes to increase the Indianapolis police force by nearly 300 officers.
The IMPD Staffing Study Commission proposal would add 286 officers to the force by 2020 at a annual cost of about $100 in new taxes for most Marion County residents. The new revenue would increase the department's ranks to 1,813 officers, the most its ever had.
"People don't feel safe in our community right now, the number one priority should be put on hiring police officers," said Democratic Councilor Mary Moriarty Adams, chairwoman of the commission.
Half the new revenues would be provided by eliminating a homeowner tax break — a move originally proposed by Republican Mayor Greg Ballard that Democrats on the council have rejected three times.
The difference this time, said council chief financial officer Bart Brown, is that the homestead tax credit would be phased out over four years. Brown said a property owner with a $100,000 home ultimately would pay an extra $30 a year.
Another $15 million a year would be generated by slightly increasing the income taxes dedicated to public safety. A resident making $50,000 a year would pay about about $75 a year more.
Democratic Councilor John Barth said it was imperative that the council address the IMPD staffing shortage now, before the number of police offices and agency morale dip too low to be repaired. His constituents, he said, have indicated they'd be willing to pay for adequate police coverage. But the question going forward is: How much?
"No matter what, it is going to be hard when we talk about revenue enhancement (tax increases)," Barth said. "The next step is to stand up and say, 'We are willing to make the hard decisions.' "