Marty WomacksMarion County Auditor
August 5, 2002
Mayor Peterson, Mr. President, Members of the City-County Council, and Citizens of Marion County:
In my presentation to you for this year's budget, I said that we had a challenging task to finance the county side of government in 2002. I did not realize what that challenge really meant. It was hardly anything by comparison with what we are facing for 2003. My staff needs to be commended for the long hours they have spent trying to locate revenues which will support our needs for next year. I will emphasize to you that we are only supporting "needs", not wants.
Despite fiscal constraints, many County agencies have been able to be creative with their respective talents and make positive improvements for the residents of Marion County. The restoration of the former Lilly Laboratories building on McCarty Street for our Coroner and the DNA lab has not only provided us with better service for the county, but also freed space in Community Corrections for an additional 60 inmate beds.
The Forensic Services Agency, or the Crime Lab as we know it, continues to provide educational opportunities to those in other countries providing additional needed funds for that agency.
Our Prosecutor's Office continues their push to be tough on crime and their statistics show that effort paying off. Violent crime, despite our high inmate population, is consistently decreasing. Notice that I said violent crime.
Although the Sheriff's Department is constantly facing added crime in the outlying suburban area of Marion County and the jail overcrowding problem, they continue to help us by obtaining grant funds for a variety of programs and rental initiatives for their Crime Prevention and Reserve Division offices. Although the future of the arrestee processing center is on hold momentarily, the Sheriff has been a key figure in negotiating for that. A Civilian Review Board is also being created after intensive communication sessions with neighborhood groups.
The Family Advocacy Center relocated to North Keystone early this year because the lease on the McCrea Street facility was ending. The new location has provided them with adequate parking and closer proximity to those they serve.
The Cooperative Extension Agency, although having a somewhat different emphasis in Marion County than in rural counties, provides a multitude of activities for our taxpayers, none the least of which is their Master Gardening Program.
The Guardian Home 2000 project of modernization to our county's emergency shelter care facility for children has been completed this year. The Guardian Home Foundation raised $6 million in private money to assist in accomplishing this goal. Many of you were a part of the appropriation of the original $2 million which started the project.
In my request for agencies to give me comments on their specific highlights or accomplishments for the past year, the Pike Township Assessor let me know that she communicates with all Pike Township residents who provide her with their e-mail addresses so that current tax and other information can be distributed to them.
The county assessor has installed a document management system allowing important information to be processed between that office and the township assessors' offices. This will enable them to be able to meet statutory deadlines as required for the 2002 reassessment. My office is also participating in this document management pilot.
In county government's attempt to do more with less, technology is playing a strong role. The Information Services Agency is working hand in hand with all the county agencies to bring efficiencies in a variety of ways. Indianapolis and Marion County's INDYGov website was again recognized as one of the leading local government websites in the country.
In my office with the help of ACS, our information technology vendor, I have implemented on-line filing capability for those who wish to file either mortgage or homestead deductions. With the ever-increasing traffic within the building and the inconvenience to the taxpayer of having to go through security, I believe this is a tremendous efficiency. This Spring, approximately 2500 individuals took advantage of this service.
My primary objective for past budgets has been to increase employee salaries. As I stated earlier, I have had to make some difficult decisions and I am disappointed but there are no salary increases in the 2003 county budget. I am also recommending that we suspend incentive pay in 2002 and 2003. That will realize savings of approximately $600,000.
In working with agencies to fund the2003 budget, all travel and conference expenses have been cut in half. We are extremely diligent in my accounting section to be sure that reimbursements are made only for those items appropriate either by state statute or by local ordinance.
I am extremely appreciative of the elected officials and agency heads who have been cooperative in achieving these austerity measures.
In 2003, public safety is the primary goal of county government. The addition of more police officers and county deputies has put a tremendous strain on the public safety agencies in county government. Because of the lockup and jail populations, we are putting a terrible burden on our judges making decisions about who should be freed and who should be locked up. Those decisions are putting Indianapolis residents in jeopardy. The arrestee processing center needs to progress. The potential consequences of a continued delay are too disheartening to think about. If the Indianapolis Bond Bank does not move forward with this immediately, we should ask the Indiana State Bond Bank for the funding. I have consulted with officials at the Indiana State Bond Bank and they have stated that they can provide funding for a project like ours within 30 days of our formal request. The processing center, according to recent media, has the full attention and support of many.
The second priority is to fund an additional 98 jail beds for criminal offenders. That cost is approximately 1.4 million dollars. Our total need is far greater than that, but this is a responsible beginning.
Our third priority is to provide additional funding for the courts. Along with our growing inmate population comes the need for additional probation officers. We are funding an additional $2 million to the courts for that purpose and other court-related costs.
The fourth public safety priority is the need to meet our fiscal responsibility of paying for the incarceration of our juveniles. Last week I received in essence a demand letter from the State Budget Agency requesting the delinquent $28 million. My recommendation is to continue to pay toward this liability two years in arrears as we have been doing during my term in office. The 2001 bill to be paid in 2003 amounts to $16 million.
To fund this budget, I am recommending that the Council in its negotiations with the Mayor over the total city-county budget adjust the County Option Income Tax distribution in a more equitable manner. As proposed in the 2003 budget, this would require changing the current allocation from 1/3 county, 2/3 city to 60% county, 40% city. This split more accurately reflects the population distribution. County government has been short-changed since the inception of the county option income tax. Furthermore, the average income of those individuals is greater than those within the old city limits according to the census data. Their contribution to this tax far exceeds the benefits they receive.
I realize that the submission of my 2003 budget recommendation is just the beginning of the process. I also realize that over the next six or seven weeks much negotiation and debate will occur between the Mayor in his capacity as the Chief County Executive and the leadership of the Council. I am confident that through those negotiations the public safety needs I have mentioned and those of the city will be fairly and equitably addressed.
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to working with you as we address these very important needs.
Martha A. WomacksAuditor, Marion County, Indiana