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Indianapolis mayor's preschool funding plan stalls

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The funding plan for the Indianapolis mayor's proposed preschool education initiative has stalled in the City-County Council.

A council committee on Tuesday tabled without discussion the proposal from Republican Mayor Greg Ballard to pay for preschool scholarships to low-income families by eliminating Marion County's homestead property tax credit. That step would raise $5 million a year.

Democrats who control the council have voted repeatedly to save the property tax credit.

Ballard announced his proposal in late July, saying it was aimed at helping attack the root causes of crime in the city, which has experienced a jump in the number of homicides this year.

Ballard said he's frustrated that council Democrats haven't presented an alternative funding plan.

"They need to present what they want to do, and they haven't done that and we've done it many times," Ballard said. "This is now six to seven weeks old and we keep hearing they're going to do something, but they haven't."

Ballard's plan would make preschool available to 1,300 4-year-olds from low-income families for each of the next five years. The city would have provided half of the $50 million needed through the elimination of the homestead tax credit, while private donations would provide the other $25 million. Eliminating the tax credit would cost most of the city's homeowners about $22 a year.

The council last week approved a local income tax increase that would add 150 officers to the city's police force by the end of 2018.

Democratic Councilman John Barth said he is working with Ballard's aides to develop a compromise on funding for the preschool plan.

Many Democratic council members oppose paying for the preschool program with the tax credit, but some members think it is a worthy program that should be pursued, Barth said.

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