Thursday, September 15, 2011

Democratic Challenger Melina Kennedy on Raiding of Funds from TIF Districts

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Kennedy Calls Out Mayor for $20 Million Raid on Libraries & Public Schools

Kennedy Proposes Change in Law to Prevent Future Raids on Property Tax, Library and School Funds

Democratic Mayoral Challenger Melina Kennedy
 INDIANAPOLIS (September 15, 2011) - Today, Melina Kennedy, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis, denounced Mayor Ballard's decision to divert at least $20 million of property taxes that would have gone to schools, libraries and other essential services. Instead, the Mayor used property taxes on downtown projects not related to paying off the debt the TIF District  owes.
"After being absent from the education discussion for the past four years, yesterday the Mayor made a hasty attempt to support education by offering tax credits to non-profits and providing $2 million to charter schools,” said Kennedy. “In fact over the past four years he’s taken $20 million from entities like schools and libraries and used the money for pet projects like a walkway to connecting the Arts Garden and a hotel and giving money to the CIB. His priorities are misplaced by taking funding away from schools and libraries to fund pet projects.”
Kennedy added, “On several occasions over the past few years, the Mayor has said that he could not use the substantial excess monies from the Downtown TIF district to meet the needs of libraries and IndyGo. As a result, libraries and IndyGo have been forced to make serious and painful cuts in hours and service levels.”

Kennedy continued, “The $20 million raid of tax dollars is a display of misplaced priorities. To take money from schools and libraries when they are struggling is unconscionable – and as Mayor, I would never let that happen. In fact, as mayor, I will propose legislation to safeguard school, libraries and other providers of essential services from having their tax dollars raided in this way.”

Kennedy noted that the $20 million -- $9.7 million of diverted personal property taxes in 2009, and roughly $10.4 million of diverted personal property taxes in 2010 -- is sorely needed to restore service cuts resulting from the Mayor's decisions to fund his downtown pet projects.
"We must have a mayor who recognizes how essential our schools, libraries and bus services are to the health and success of our City,” said Kennedy. “As Mayor, I would never strip monies away from essential services at a time when our schools are struggling, our libraries are being closed, our crime prevention programs are being cut and our bus services are struggling to get workers to and from work daily.”
Kennedy explained that she would seek to change the law Mayor Ballard has been using, to prevent the Mayor from diverting property taxes from schools, libraries and other units of government when the Downtown TIF District is flush with cash as it was in 2009 and 2010 when the Mayor diverted the $20 Million into the Downtown TIF. Kennedy noted that she is not opposed to appropriate use of tax increment financing, but that Ballard in those two years took unfair advantage of a state law change to take money away from schools, libraries and other units of government.
Kennedy has outlined her own plans to make Indianapolis a "Quality of Life Capital," including transformative investments in quality early childhood education so that more children are reading at grade level by the third grade, a comprehensive jobs and economic development strategy to get Indianapolis moving again, and restoration of crime prevention funding Mayor Ballard has cut over the past few years.

Publisher's Note: This is one issue I totally agree with Kennedy on. I am terribly frustrated with Mayor Ballard's priorities which put subsidizing downtown elites and politically-connected insiders ahead of properly funding things like parks, libraries and animal control, Then you have the additional problem that the administration is using the TIF to pay for pet projects which diverts money from other local units of government, including schools. As a result, we will all end up paying higher property taxes.

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