$98.6 million proposed for Bloomington’s 2020 budget, includes 12 new positions

Bloomington’s city council isn’t scheduled to take a final vote on the adoption of Mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2020 budget until Oct. 10. Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

But next Monday, Hamilton will appear at 6 p.m. in front of the council to deliver a speech that presents the $98.6 million proposal.

In their four-day schedule of departmental hearings starting after Hamilton’s speech, the city council is expected to take straw votes on each department’s proposal. That will give Hamilton’s administration a chance to make some final tweaks before the budget is given a first reading in front of the council on Sept. 25.

The $98.6 million covers all of the city’s 15 departments except for three—City of Bloomington Utilities ($44 million), Bloomington Transit ($14 million), and Bloomington Housing Commission ($13 million). The 15-department total adds up to around $170 million.

The proposed core budget of $98.6 million for 2020 is the fourth annual budget that Hamilton has presented since he was elected in November 2015. It continues the trend of his first three proposed budgets—year-to-year increases averaging about 8 percent. This year’s $98.6 million budget is more than one-third (36 percent) bigger than the last one approved for his predecessor, Mark Kruzan, in 2016.

Of the four basic categories in the budget—personnel, supplies, other services, and capital outlays—the biggest difference between the proposed 2020 budget and the one adopted in 2016 is in capital outlays. The $8.6 million for capital outlays in 2020 is almost three and a half times the $2.5 million in 2016.

Last year, on the occasion of the budget presentation, Hamilton spoke for a half hour.

Based on a press briefing last Friday, one topic he’s likely to address this year, beyond the nuts and bolts of the proposed budget, is climate change and how it affects budgeting. Climate change “is going to be part of our planning forever,” Hamilton said.

After the jump, this piece will tick through: some nuts and bolts of the proposed 2020 budget; the budget process up to now; the week’s four-day city council schedule starting with Monday’s mayoral address.

Budget Nuts and Bolts

The $98.6 million in expenses for 2020 are planned to be paid with a combination of property tax, local income tax, food and beverage tax, parking revenue, pension revenue, parks fees, in addition to state and federal support.

In the 282-page 2020 budget memo, the breakdown of revenue for the $46,759,329 general fund is laid out on a single page. Of the total, $23,384,920 comes from property tax, $11,827,433 comes from the local income tax, and $10,464,544 comes from other, miscellaneous sources.

The proposed budget includes a $938,792 loss of property tax revenue due to tax caps.

Revenues include $1.3 million a year from Indiana University that is put towards the firehouse, operations and the staff for the Woodlawn station on campus.

On Friday, Hamilton said the 2020 budget assumes a 2-percent raise for the city’s non-union employees. It maintains a $15 minimum wage for everybody who works for the city as a regular or part-time employee. A “living wage”—which is defined for 2020 as $13.21— will be provided for seasonal workers.

The “living wage” was established by a 2005 city ordinance “to ensure that the city, city service contractors and subcontractors, and beneficiaries of a city grant, tax abatement or other forms of subsidy or assistance pay a wage sufficient for a working family to meet basic needs in housing, child care, food, clothing, household items, transportation, health care, and taxes.”

When it was first established, the living wage for Bloomington was $10 per hour. The automatic increase defined in the ordinance is keyed to the consumer price index (CPI). It will be $13.21 per hour in 2020.

Hamilton said that 1.8 percent of the 2020 budget for personnel is dedicated to training and skill building, compared to 0.5 percent when he took office.

The proposed 2020 budget will add 12 new positions to the city’s roughly 850 employees.

  • 2 in the Police Department (regular patrol officers). This would add to the 103 sworn officers and 62 civilian staff members in the department.
  • 2 in Parks and Recreation (both union positions, one supervisory and the other labor for the new Switchyard Park)
  • 5 in City of Bloomington Utilities (two of them are dedicated to green infrastructure, like bioswales and rain gardens; one is dedicated to capital projects to aging infrastructure; one is dedicated to environmental programs; and one is a data analyst)
  • 1 in Legal Department. An assistant attorney who resigned two years ago was not replaced; and City of Bloomington Utilities needs a full-time resource instead of the 70-percent currently provided.
  • 1 in the Economic and Sustainable Development Department. After two years of outsourcing work the city is hiring a regular full-time employee. This is to take on projects like food security, development of the Trades District and the hospital property that the city is acquiring.
  • 1 in the Public Works Department (a project manager position).

Budget Process

Hamilton said on Friday that his administration applies the principle of zero-based budgeting—which means you don’t assume that anything that was in last year’s budget will be in this year’s budget. In practice, however, Hamilton said some things are just assumed as recurring. “We’re not going to lay off 850 city employees,” he said.

The city’s deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen, described for the press at Friday’s briefing how input on the budget is collected systematically. He pointed to the community surveys the city has contracted with National Research Center, Inc. to complete—in 2017 and 2019. And on April 30, the city council gave the administration suggestions at its “budget advance” meeting. (It does not appear that the “budget advance” session is available through Community Access Television Service archive. Minutes of the session are not posted on the city’s website.)

Renneisen also described how department heads, who keep tabs on the “pulse of the community,” start with goal setting that’s in line with the overarching goals of the mayor’s office. Department heads then put in their requests to the administration in a back-and-forth kind of interaction. Of the more than 50 new positions requested by department heads, just 12 made it into the proposed 2020 budget.

The week starting Aug. 19 features another chance for the city council to give some direction to the administration about any changes councilmembers would like to see.

Changes that entail increases are particularly important for the administration to make, before the budget legislation is presented to the council on Sept. 25. That’s because the city council cannot, under state statute, increase budget amounts through its own amendments, Hamilton said on Friday. The council can only make amendments that reduce amounts.

Hamilton said the council was also prevented by statute from moving line items around, even if the dollar amounts remained the same. Two firefighters could not be swapped in for two police officers, for example.

The council’s feedback to the administration next week will in part take the form of votes—councilmember Steve Volan characterized them for The Beacon as “straw votes.” The council’s president, Dave Rollo told The Beacon councilmembers would also provide critiques.

“We will give a recommendation at these budget hearings, with a vote, and critique,” Rollo said. He added, “The mayor will take this information, and (perhaps) amend the budget based on this input.” Rollo said that if the council were to vote down the proposed budget, then by default, last year’s budget would be adopted for 2020.

Budget Hearing Week

Monday, August 19
Overview – General and Financial
Compensation and Health Insurance
Human Resources
City Clerk
Information and Technology Services
City Council
Office of the Mayor

Tuesday, August 20
Police Department
Fire Department
Public Transit

Wednesday, August 21
Bloomington Housing Authority
Housing and Neighborhood Development
Economic and Sustainable Development
Community and Family Resources
Parks and Recreation

Thursday, August 22
Planning and Transportation
Public Works
Animal Control
Fleet Maintenance
Traffic Control & Streets
Council Comment on Budget Hearings

The departmental presentations are included in the 282-page 2020 budget memo.