I-Team 8

Hogsett’s first budget cuts into city’s deficit, workforce

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett presented a budget to the city-county council Monday night that will reduce the city’s financial deficit – and eventually – its workforce.

While layoffs and furloughs appear to be unlikely, according to the mayor’s staffers who briefed reporters, Hogsett’s administration is prepared to announce its plan to “smart-size” the city – eliminating hundreds of positions that are not essential to government function.

The process will be done strictly through attrition by not filling open positions when someone from city government leaves or retires.

The process could eliminate hundreds of positions within city government but will help with the overall goal of reducing the city’s structural deficit, which is historically around $50 million annually, Hogsett staffers told reporters.

Under Hogsett’s proposed budget, many positions – or their responsibilities – could be reassigned or restructured through closer examination of the department’s processes to see if any “duplicative roles” can be eliminated, the staffers briefed on the budget told reporters.

The attrition effort will only affect city government departments, not those controlled by the county.

During a budget briefing held Monday afternoon, the mayor’s chief of staff, Thomas Cook, told reporters that the mayor doesn’t necessarily think that a reduction in workforce “equates to a reduction in services.”

“Hundreds of jobs won’t be back-filled,” Cook said.

The plan also calls for restructuring the benefits packages for new city hires starting in 2017. Hogsett staffers said that this change in retirement benefits will save millions for the city.

City Controller Fady Qaddoura told reporters that on average, the city of Indianapolis takes in less money than it spends.

“This is not sustainable and we need a new strategy,” he told reporters during a briefing. “What we are looking at this as a three-year strategy.”

In years past, Qaddoura said the city government has relied on one-time influxes of cash to help balance the city’s books – like it did in 2011 with sale of the water company.

The problem is, Qaddoura and Cook admit, the city doesn’t have any major assets it can sell to help make up for the historically $50 million annual deficit. As a result, the Hogsett administration has been forced to ask departments do more with less.

“People have to come us and asked for money and we’ve told them ‘No,'” Cook said, describing an oversimplified process by which savings have already been achieved.

Hogsett’s staffers said that next year’s budget will mark the first time in years that the mayor is appropriating less money than the year before. How much less? The proposed budget calls for decreasing spending by $12.7 million.

Through a complicated process of asking departments to spend less, paying down debt service with tax increment finance funds and achieving a one-time influx of $13 million in state money, the Hogsett administration says it has been able to reduce the city’s structural deficit by $23.8 million.

So what does the budget include?

The capital projects appear to be austere and include funding of basic services – as well as some equipment upgrades – for police, fire and EMS.

Among the highlights provided by the mayor’s office:

  • CAD system for IMPD and data-drive public safety
  • Construct two IFD stations
  • Police cruisers/ fire apparatus
  • $5 million in Parks funding
  • Solid waste trucks and equipment
  • Voting equipment

Chief Ernest Malone told I-Team 8 that his budget calls for replacing aging fire stations in Fountain Square and Franklin township. The move comes after his department announced a restructuring plan earlier this that shuttered the doors on Fire Station 16 in Broad Ripple and consolidating it into Station 32.

The budget plan also calls for hiring 86 new IMPD officers.

It also includes a four-year plan to fund $200 million worth of transportation projects. But when I-Team 8 brought up the fact that the city’s current infrastructure repair needs are closer to $1.5 billion, Qaddoura admitted that the city simply doesn’t have the money to find the city’s entire need.