October 18th, 2021, the Indianapolis City-County Council cast its final vote for the 2022 budget. 2022 is a unique budget year because City and County received $420 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; the City must spend this money by 2024; it is not part of the 2022 budget. Public safety and local infrastructure are very obvious initiatives the City must work towards improving with this budget. With the Council being 20-5 Democrats to Republicans, it's easy to see the Republican's votes are not required to pass the budget. That being the case, we must do our part in the minority caucus to fulfill the fiscal role as Councilors and hold the Hogsett administration accountable and transparent for the budget his administration sends to the Council for approval.
The City is on track to have a record number of homicides in 2021, and it's hard to disagree with the initiatives of funding Public Safety. However, the public needs to understand the City's objective of hiring 100 new police officers with ARPA dollars, $19.5 million to be specific. As Councilor, I have repeatedly expressed my concerns for one-time appropriations (ARPA) for reoccurring expenditures (100 officers). I have received multiple responses from the City regarding this concern. Their responses include: some of the funding will go to overtime pay or move around operational dollars when the funding runs out. The most prominent answer is, the City will look to future surplus dollars to fund the officers, and if there is no surplus, the City will cut funds elsewhere. These answers are not a successful strategy because they rely on a future surplus of tax revenue, and why I will keep pressuring the City to show us a five-year strategic plan that explains how we account for ongoing expenditures.
List of 2022 Budget by Department:
Running a City should not be political; it's more a matter of functionality. As elected officials and City leaders, we must focus on keeping Indianapolis safe, clean and operational. 34% of the 2022 proposed budget spend is on Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Indianapolis Fire Department. Additionally, 23% of the budget is on Public Works, Metropolitan Development, and Business and Neighborhood Services. The City will spend 57% of the 2022 budget on public safety and infrastructure, and the Courts and Sherrif make up another 13%. This budget is far from perfect and leaves much to question for long-term challenges like roads and safety. However, considering the public safety crisis our City is facing, I want to ensure the public safety officials have the resources they need to attempt to slow the violence.
The American Rescue Plan Dollars
In August 2021, the City-County Council passed a fiscal ordinance creating a fund to receive American Rescue Plan Act dollars. That ordinance accounts for $225 million of the $420 million, and the remainder will be appropriated in March of 2022. What does the City wish to do with all that money? Equally curious, I asked our City's Controller, Ken Clark, for an itemized list of expenditures for the dollars. Let me know what you think about the items on this list.
List of Expenditures for Ameican Rescue Plan Act Dollars:
What to do next?
As a community, we must hold the City accountable for the dollars the Council appropriates. If the City says they will do XYZ with the dollars, they need to show us the results! I am working on a Resolution for the City that requires the City Department Directors to report back to the Council Committees the output of the American Rescue Plan dollars. I am tired of seeing our dollars go into programs that don't show results. My proposal will require the City to create four quarterly reports and one annual report through 2024 on the expenditures incurred by each department as a result of the
Additionally, I have recently been appointed to the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee meets with independent external auditors to discuss the scope of annual audits, oversees the affairs of the city-county internal audit agency, and serves as the informed resource regarding the auditing and accounting practices of the City and the county. With this new role, I will work closely with the City's Office of Audit and Performance on methodologies to improve accountability and transparency for taxpayer dollars.
How can you help?
Show up to Committee and Council Meetings
Stay in Contact with your City-County Councilor