Bloomington set to bang wobbles out of budget wheel, in year-end ritual

If the city’s annual budget starts out as a perfectly round plan at the beginning of the year, it gets a few dings as it rolls along through the months.

By Centrimaster – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Towards year’s end, adjustments always get made to the budget, in the form of an appropriation ordinance. Money gets shuffled amongst funds and in some cases draws on the general fund balance to square up the ledger.

As city controller Jeff Underwood described the process to the city council’s committee of the whole on Thursday night, “We come to you in the fall and…kind of ‘true up’, as I call it, the different departments and different funds that may need transfers or may need additional funds.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the appropriation ordinance, totaling about $1.5 million, got a favorable recommendation from the council’s committee of the whole, which sets the stage for a vote of approval by the full city council in December.

One of the bumps in the road this year was the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s online financial system shows $543,595 worth of expenses with “COVID” in the expense description.  That’s close to the $549,000 described by Underwood as expected to be reimbursed through the state’s and city’s federal COVID-19 relief assistance.

Asked by councilmember Sue Sgambelluri how confident he is that Bloomington will receive reimbursement, Underwood said, “I’m very confident that we’re going to get those funds.”

For now, that amount contributes to the total that needs to be transferred into the general fund, which is $871,400.

Another bump in the road was the 27 weeks of pay for 2020, compared to the more usual 26 weeks. According to Underwood, “We followed the instructions from our software company concerning how to budget for the additional pay period.” Underwood continued, “However after the budget was approved and we implemented payroll for this year it was discovered that the software did not correctly calculate the amount needed.”

Underwood added, “The error was identified and corrected by the company, however it was too late for us to correct. For the most part, departments have been able to cover this shortfall with other funds within their budget.”

Responding to a question from councilmember Steve Volan, Underwood said the ballpark figure to adjust for the issue of the 27 pay periods is around $380,000.

Other significant impacts that threw the budget out of true was an amount of $397,000 to cover the settlement of “two long standing serious worker compensation cases,” according to Underwood’s memo to the city council.

Some of the items that were covered through adjustments made by the ordinance drew thanks from councilmembers. Isabel Piedmont-Smith said she supports both the city administration’s effort towards the Wheeler women’s shelter ($54,000) and the new COVID-19 testing site ($100,000).

Piedmont-Smith called the new testing site location, across the B-Line Trail from the Seminary Square Park “much better located for people here close to the center of town.”

Table of Bloomington COVID-19 related expenses