Wow! What a week! What a month! With so much going on in the community, the country, the world, there is much to digest and discuss. However, with all the craziness of the world, I know that I must focus and discuss the task before me as a member of the City-County Council, the fiscal agent, the group that is responsible for spending your hard-earned tax dollars.
By now you may have heard the city’s 2018 budget categorized as a budget lacking details and clear direction that depends on raising fees.
Well, I’m here to tell you this is far from the truth.
There are no games being played with this budget. The budget includes spending that is important to you and me. The proposed 2018 budget includes funding for critical infrastructure improvements. In fact, it builds upon last year’s infrastructure plan and includes plans for our transportation infrastructure, with spending through 2021 now projected at $378,825,000. And, if this doesn’t convince you that this budget is serious, take note of the storm water investment strategy that is also included. This addition will bring the infrastructure investment total across the city to half a billion dollars over the next five years and allow the city to make much-needed improvements to neighborhoods. But these investments are not down the road and years away from happening. There is $120 million worth of infrastructure improvements that are scheduled for 2018 alone. These are not penny investments — they are real, they are happening and we all will benefit.
The mayor and many members of the Council continue to stress the importance of investing in keeping our neighborhoods safe. The 2018 budget will fund a new class of 86 police officers — a projected net gain of 31 officers — and a new class of 40 firefighters. The budget also increases the funding for community-based public safety initiatives, setting aside an additional $250,000 for the Community Crime Prevention Grant Program, administered by the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). This puts the total funding to $2,500,000 to help support organizations doing the most work in our neighborhoods.
Finally, the submitted budget also supports policy priorities including establishing permanent housing solutions for an additional 400 individuals in our community who are currently experiencing homelessness and the revitalization of 2,000 homes within the next two years through demolition, construction and reinvestment. The budget also provides funding to retrofit streetlights to energy-efficient LED technology, paving the way for new lights to be installed across the city.
As you know, the proof is in the details. Over the remaining five weeks, do not be surprised if you catch councilors engaged in a heated debate or two. I even invite you to attend the public hearings and let your voice be heard. Make sure to visit my website maggiealewis.com for budget hearing dates, and you can also download a copy of the presentations.
The budgeting process is long and daunting, but at the end of the day, I’m convinced that the 2018 budget will be the best fiscally sound budget since property tax caps. Follow us during the process and when we are finished, I am confident you will agree.
Maggie A. Lewis is president of the Indianapolis City-County Council.