INDIANAPOLIS — Emerging from the financial instability of the COVID-19 pandemic into the uncertainty of a potential recession, the proposed 2023 municipal budget for the City of Indianapolis will top out at approximately $1.4 billion, up $100 million from this year’s budget.
But Mayor Joe Hogsett is proposing tens of millions of dollars in property tax relief for Marion County homeowners.
The budget will be unveiled before the City-County Council at 7 p.m.
”There will be a significant infrastructure portion, increase in infrastructure funding, as well as the additional public safety funding,” the mayor told FOX59s in an exclusive budget preview interview Sunday afternoon. “For the sixth consecutive year, it will be fully balanced, it will be fully funded, and we might even ask the council to consider some tax relief.”
Public safety and the pursuit of justice in Marion County courts will once again account for a majority of the mayor’s proposed budget.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s anticipated spending will grow to $313 million, with $266 million coming from the city’s general fund, an all-time increase, according to Hogsett, reflecting a 7% increase.
”It will be, as a matter of Indianapolis history, a record public safety commitment,” said Hogsett. ”What I’m saying is historic is when you take what probably will be the largest budget allocation in regular budgeting terms, but when you add in the additional dollars from American Rescue Plan, we are dedicating a historic level of money to public safety, generally.”
Last year, ARPA funds added $33 million to IMPD’s budget to pay for technology upgrades.
Hogsett said the city intends to make policing in Indianapolis more attractive to both recruits and veterans already on the job in order to fulfill his commitment to put more officers on the streets.
”We’re gonna be increasing incentive pay, we’re gonna be increasing first-year officers’ compensation, we’re going to be helping IMPD out so that every officer has a greater length of time which to enjoy their pension at retirement,” he said. ”We’re trying to get officers to stay on longer and obviously fill those fully funded 1,847 slots that we currently have, and there’s about 200 vacancies.”
Other agencies charged with protecting the county and delivering justice will also see funding hikes.
The sheriffs’ budget will grow 7% to $58 million, and the Indianapolis Fire Department’s allocation will increase to $195 million.
The prosecutor, public defender and superior court budgets will all see double digit increases to more than $30 million apiece.
The Office of Public Health and Safety’s budget will grow 33% to more than $21 million, the spending boosted by federal funds.
The coroner, which has struggled to keep up with Marion County’s escalating death rate due to COVID, increasing homicides and fatal drug overdoses, will see its budget almost double to more than $10 million.
The Department of Public Works’ budget will grow to $212 million to upgrade Marion County streets, bridges and sidewalks, while the mayor said more money will be borrowed to rebuild Indy Parks and public facilities.
One budget that will see a sharp decline will be the city’s rental assistance program, which was boosted by two years of congressional COVID relief funding that has expired.
”Everybody understood that at some point in time hopefully the economy would rebound, COVID would be under control, and people would be able to go back to work. I’m not saying there won’t be some adjustments needed, but they’ll probably be in the area of rental assistance and the like,” said Hogsett. ”I think it’s fair to say that while COVID is not behind us, while the ravages of the pandemic still plague too many people, not just in Indianapolis but throughout the country, but I can tell you that I think tomorrow night the people of Indianapolis will have a very definite sense that Indianapolis is building back.”
Anticipating the exhaustion of some $91 million in CARES funding that paid for rental assistance, a coalition of African American pastors released a statement calling on Hogsett to beef up aid to low-income renters
“That need has not been abated, so we are very concerned that the IndyRent program is significantly scaling back and will not be accepting new applications for assistance,” reads the statement from the Concerned Clergy, Baptist Minister’s Alliance and National Action Network of Indiana.
The coalition calls for an expansion of applications beyond those impacted by the COVID pandemic, as well as accelerating the rental assistance process.
Council approval of the budget is expected by mid-October.