Lest we succumb to bitter despair over seemingly endless examples of petulant bickering that prevent Republicans and Democrats from cooperating to achieve the best-possible outcomes for their constituencies, let the following news release headline offer some hope: Mayor Ballard, Council President Lewis, and Caucus Leadership reach Budget Agreement. The compromise, according to the Mayor's Office, restores about $32 million originally proposed to be cut from county offices such as Prosecutor's Office and the Sheriff's Department. In addition, both sides agreed to operational spending cuts of 5 percent for 2013 and to engaging in monthly financial meetings between Ballard and leaders from both Council caucuses. Car rental and admissions taxes will increase 2 and 4 percent respectively, generating about $10 million in increased revenue. Leaders are also working toward long-term solutions for perennial public-safety funding issues. The agreement, according to the Mayor's Office, "will produce a $12 million annual increase in general fund revenue beginning in 2014, leave the City with a manageable $6 million gap between estimated spending versus revenues for 2014, and leave $42 million in operating reserves at the end of 2013." In a statement issued applauding the cooperation of the city's leadership, Scott Miller, president and chief executive of the Indy Chamber, said: "This is proof once again that we as a community can tackle tough issues by working together for the betterment of our city."Where to start? Well how about the Nuvo's characterization of the tax increase as only being 2% and 4%? Actually base car rental tax in the proposed ordinance moves from 4% to 6% (not counting other taxes paid on car rentals). That isn't a 2% increase, it's a 50% increase. As far as the admissions tax moving from 6% to 10%, that is not a 4% tax increase, it is a 67% increase. Obviously the Nuvo editors failed basic math in high school.
Nuvo makes it sound like the money from these tax increases will all go to essential city services. What the editors completely fail to report is that 75% of the money raised from the tax increases goes to the Capital Improvement Board which is this year, as it has in the past three years, simply handing over $10 million to the Pacers to run a public building on which the team, not the taxpayers, get 100% of the revenue. The CIB is not about to use the money to help the City with essential services.
Speaking of which, the CIB contributes ZERO to public safety as part of the deal. Of course the people involved with the deal say the CIB is giving $5 million for public safety. But that $5 million is being taken away from repairs to a parking garage the CIB was going to do. The City, through its downtown TIF, is going to spend $5 million on those repairs. So the CIB makes a net contribution of zero dollars to public safety. The money shell game is all about giving the media types the appearance that the CIB is contributing money to public safety when, in fact, it obviously is not.
I guess it would be too much to ask that the Nuvo report the fact that Indianapolis already rates as one of the worst cities for "visitor" taxes and this increase will place us behind only New York City and Chicago.
In most communities, alternative publications take on a watchdog role when the daily newspaper falls short. Not so in Indianapolis. The Nuvo was irrelevant before the Star's circulation started dropping. It remains irrelevant today.
UPDATE: It was pointed out to me by a Nuvo editor, that the Mayor's press release had claimed the tax increases were only 2% and 4%. Of course that is a complete misrepresentation of the tax increase proposals which are actually 50% and 67%. Even the Star didn't bite on the Mayor's numbers, though the Star does use a lower figure (17%) for the rental car tax increase by lumping into the figure other taxes on rental cars that were not increased.