Officials in Indianapolis’s Marion County are meeting today to plug a $9 million gap in the public safety budget, says the Indianapolis Star. The county may boost six fees. A ontroversial proposal to charge a fee to businesses that hire off-duty police for security jobs has been dropped, but if the Criminal Justice Planning Council approves increasing fees for fire inspections, accident reports, and false burglar alarms, the proposals will get a hearing before the City-County Council.
The money would help pay for part of what’s needed for police, firefighters, jail beds, and other criminal justice needs. Officials will make up the gap by borrowing $6.5 million against next year’s taxes. Judges, law enforcement officials and city government leaders agree that the county’s courts and jails have been woefully shortchanged for decades. The proposed fees and loans would pay for 126 police officers; 44 firefighters; three criminal court judges; 300 jail beds; 10 infirmary beds; coroner’s office supplies; youth managers at the juvenile center; and repairs to Marion County Jail II. That will cost nearly $9 million this year and another $25 million in 2007. “We’ve gone from branches of government doing their own thing to strategic planning and discussion on possible ways to meet needs,” said Cale Bradford, presiding judge of the 32 superior courts. “That’s light years from where we were four years ago in Marion County.” Bradford once likened the justice system to a beat-up car held together with Bondo and baling wire. Now, he sees hope.