Council must find way to pay for Ballard’s pre-K plan

Mayor Greg Ballard speaks to supporters before Monday's council vote on a pre-k proposal

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After approving a path to create pre-kindergarten instruction for low-income families, the city-county council must now approve a funding mechanism that will pay for the program.

Councillor Jeff Miller, one of the co-sponsors of the measure that passed the council 19 to 8 Monday night, told 24-Hour News 8 the council could introduce a financial ordinance at its next meeting on December 15. Miller says it’s likely the ordinance wouldn’t be up for its first vote until sometime in January.

Miller, who said he’d been briefed on draft language, said the funding mechanism would allow the city to invest $20 million over the next five years – roughly $4 million each year. That would be coupled with $20 million in private donations.

The public funds will come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Adding a one percent fee for city-backed charter schools.
  • Withholding tax revenue that was previously and mistakenly paid to homeowners who no longer qualified.
  • Interest earned from city investments.

When asked if that would be a sustainable way to fund pre-K, Miller said “No. But we don’t intend it to be,” Miller said, adding that he is optimistic that pilot pre-K program will be so successful that the state legislature would adopt its own statewide version before the end of Indianapolis’ five-year program.

He added though he has heard the criticism that the funding mechanism – while creative – has also been compared to funding pre-K by “finding spare change in the sofa cushions.”

Speaking this morning on 24-Hour News 8’s Daybreak, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard praised the contributions of the private sector.

“(The money) will come from multiple funding options. But you can’t discount the $20 million from the private community – from the corporate community. It’s unbelievable that they stepped up immediately when we pushed for this.
The city really does want this, the corporate community wants it. They understand this is their future workforce. And we rolled it out as part of the public safety plan,” Ballard said.

The pre-K program for low-income children is just one portion of Ballard’s public safety plan that includes hiring more officers and pushing for tougher sentencing guidelines for violent criminals.

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