The longer-term problem facing Indianapolis is a structural deficit of $30-$50 million annually. What's a structural deficit? The simplest Internet definition I can give you: "a structural deficit occurs when a country (or state, municipality, etc) posts a deficit even when the economy is operating at its full potential." Unlike some cities where the structural deficit hits regardless of how a municipality is doing, Indy's is mostly because of rising costs and stagnant revenues.
I supported the elimination of the local homestead tax credit (despite my anti-tax wiring) because I felt there were enough safeguards in place to protect the taxpayer now that we live in a property tax cap world. However, I have always felt the best way to solve your city's problems is to have a growing healthy economy. However, managing your budget only gets you so far. There are other things a city has to do to make that happen and I think Indianapolis is doing what it can in this environment to address those issues. Here are a few examples that all came down last week...
* Indianapolis Charter School Board unanimously approved Mayor Greg Ballard's recommendation for a new elementary charter school serving the east side of Indianapolis, opening next school year.
* The City recently awarded $2.5 million in grants to organizations that combat unemployment, homelessness and domestic violence; the largest single grant of $438,480 is being made to EmployIndy, operator of Marion County's WorkOne centers, to help the unemployed through neighborhood based employment programs.
* The City recently held a free financial planning day at the University of Indianapolis to help citizens who had questions about getting out of debt, retirement planning, investing, insurance and mortgages.
* In the realm of public safety, the City-County Council last week introduced Proposal 329, it would establish a bipartisan study commission to determine the appropriate and necessary number of police officers as well as review long-term funding options for public safety.
* In energy and sustainability, the City recently celebrated the opening of a 75-acre solar farm near the old airport. The 44,000 panels will generate enough electricity to supply IPL with up to 10 percent of its energy by 2017.
While individually these may not seem like large initiatives, in the aggregate they help lay the foundation to create more taxpayers. And that is what Indianapolis needs to thrive, it needs more people living and working here to create the tax base to provide the services. Indy is on the right track to make that happen, it's just going to take a while to get there.
The day after the Indianapolis City-County Council passed a budget 26-2 for 2014, city officials started to get to work on the 2015 budget. And that day could not come too soon. To close a $15 million budget gap and increase the number of police officers, instead of eliminating the local homestead property tax credit to the tune of $22 a year for the average property taxpayer who isn't at the one-percent cap, the council opted to do the equivalent of lifting up couch cushions, breaking piggy banks and walking in the backyard and trying to remember where we buried those few bucks in mayonnaise jar. Luckily, for this time, it worked. We may not be so lucky next year.