Marion County prosecutor, chief public defender raise turnover concerns at budget hearings

INDIANAPOLIS, IN-- While the Indianapolis mayor's office is presenting a proposed 2018 budget focusing in part on public safety, two agencies say they may need more funds.

During budget hearings Wednesday night, both Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Chief Public Defender Robert Hill called one of the challenges their offices face a crisis to members of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee. They said they're seeing more cases, but a high turnover because of low pay.

"We need to look at them the same way we look at the police department, the fire department," Councilor Joseph Simpson said.

Mayor Joe Hogsett's proposed budget for 2018 increases IMPD's budget by nearly $14 million and IFD's budget by nearly $3 million to help add more officers. It adds more than $900,000 to both the prosecutor's office and public defender agency's budgets.

"That's a little misleading in that our budget was underfunded by $750,000 last year," Curry said.

Curry said while their caseloads are skyrocketing, by more than 100 percent since 2011 in major felony drug and gun cases, he's challenged keeping attorneys on board.

"Our salaries are so non-competitive that we have lost 55 deputy prosecutors in the last 18 months," he said.

Hill said his office has similar problems. They've seen more than a 100 percent increase in CHINS cases since 2013. He also told councilors 54 employees resigned between June 2015 and June 2016, and 74 percent cited inadequate pay.

"When you have a talent drain you also have a cascading domino effect throughout the rest of the system," Hill said.

Hill said they've worked with the controller's office to address some of his budget concerns. He said he thinks they're okay now, but may have to ask for more money in the future.

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