Thursday, July 31, 2014

Star Reports Indianapolis Mayor Proposes Tax Increase to Pay for More Education and Cops

From the Indianapolis Star:

Mayor Greg Ballard Wednesday outlined a crime-fighting plan that calls for a preschool program designed to keep kids off a troubled path, more police officers and a crack down on gun crimes.

Supporters of the mayor hailed the proposal as visionary, but critics saw it as a first strike in the 2015 mayoral campaign that is likely to focus on public safety and the city's rising violence.

The centerpiece of the proposal is a $50 million in public-private investment to make high-quality preschool available to 1,300 4-year-olds in low-income Indianapolis families for each of the next five years.

Roughly $40 million of the early schooling investment would go toward voluntary preschool scholarships and $10 million for grants to help program providers reach the top tiers of state ratings.

The city would provide half of the $50 million through the elimination of a homestead tax credit while private donations would provide the other $25 million. Axing the tax credit would cost 40 percent of the city's homeowners about $2 a week.

The mayor's proposal also calls for providing educational opportunities for students who have been expelled from school and are locked up in juvenile detention.

Much of the rest of the plan is a re-iteration of strategies that Ballard's Republican administration has previously proposed — and the Democratic City-County Council president said it doesn't include enough new police officers.

"We already know that number is not sufficient," Lewis said. "It doesn't get us where we want to go. This is just kicking the can down the road."

Ballard would pay for the new officers by raising the public safety income tax from 0.35 percent to 0.5 percent to collect $24 million annually to pay for the additional officers

The tax bump, which needs council approval, would cost a taxpayer earning $42,000 a year $5.32 per month, or about $64 a year.

The tax increase would pay for 360 new officers by 2018, for a net gain to the force of 112, after attrition.