Monday, August 11, 2008

i thought we were promised no cuts in public safety?

you may recall that mayor ballard promised to balance the city's budget and slash $70 million of fluff, all without any funding cuts for public safety. so i'm a bit puzzled now that he's announced his 2009 budget:

Ballard's budget proposal would cut about $18 million in current spending, including parks and the arts. But the budget Ballard will announce tonight proposes the majority of the cuts come from the sheriff's department, Marion Superior Courts and an uncertain consolidation of assessors.

Reynolds explained the proposal to cut $5.5 million from the department of Sheriff Frank Anderson, a Democrat, by noting that the city's contract with a private jail operator costs less than half as much as the county-operated jail. He said he understands the difference between the privately run minimum-security facility and county-operated maximum-security jail but thinks substantial savings could be found.

Joanne Sanders, the Democratic minority leader, said it didn't make sense to reduce jail spending after years of efforts to stop jail crowding that forced the early release of prisoners.

She questioned Ballard's proposal to cut $2.4 million from the court system. She said spending $12.6 million more on the police doesn't make sense if the courts won't be able to process the extra criminals caught, leaving them sitting in jail for long periods.

"It comes back to jail crowding, and we've seen the end result before," Sanders said. "It appears we're going backwards."

so ballard wants more money for cops, but less money for the courts and jails? and he calls that protecting our public safety? anyone who's seen an episode of law & order knows that catching a crimial is only act one—the criminal then needs to be incarcerated pending trial and convicted. it doesn't matter how many cops are on the street if the courts and jails are so crowded and underfunded that criminals go free.

and then there's the pathetic excuse for why he's cutting the sheriff's budget: the city's minimum-security jail is cheaper, therefore the maximum-security county jail should be equally cheap. that's like going to the supermarket and complaining that apples cost more than oranges. they cost different amounts because they're totally different!

another thing: remember what i was saying yesterday about mayor ballard failing to learn from governor daniels's mistakes? i only have three words to add here: new castle riots.

the mayor claims his new budget is balanced, which i guess is true if you redefine what "balanced budget" actually means:

Budget documents outlined in a media briefing Sunday showed the proposal would spend less in operations than it receives in revenue next year, but it also removes from the bottom line $10.8 million in sewer improvement capital expenses so the mayor can call the budget balanced. The five-year projection still showed a negative fund balance in 2012, which Reynolds called an ongoing challenge.

i never thought of balancing the budget by simply not accounting for all your expenses! pretty sneaky. and then there's stuff like this:

Ballard's budget assumes a ballot referendum consolidating township assessors will succeed, and it no longer pays for an extra reassessment like in 2008.

now, taking off the extra reassessment is probably fair, because how many times is the governor going to order reassessments? (he surely won't in 2009, as he'll no longer be up for reelection.) but wouldn't it be safer to assume your consolidation plan won't go through and budget for those expenses, rather than assume you'll get lucky again?

and of course, in addition to all these cuts, there is even more additional spending to offset those cuts, so the result is a larger budget than last year's. this is the point in the post where i would normally make another "fluff" joke, but frankly i just don't have it in me today.


M Theory said...

WTHR story about one hour ago:
"Ballard also believes the county should be able to save money somewhere within jail operations. The Marion County Jail now pays over $100 a day to house each offender, but Jail 2, which is privately run, pays only $42 a day"

Frank Anderson has some 'splainin' to do!

stAllio! said...

it's pretty easy to explain (in fact, i already did above): jail II is minimum security and county jail is maximum security.

an apple is not an orange, and vice versa.