Column | Bingo: If you want help listening to every last word during Bloomington’s 2022 budget hearings

Monday begins a series of four city council meetings on Bloomington’s proposed budget for 2022.

Image links to .pdf with 30 different budget bingo cards.

It was last Friday when the proposed 2022 budget was released publicly by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

City councilmembers will convene meetings on four successive nights, Monday through Thursday. Each meeting will start at 6 p.m. That’s a half hour earlier than the normal start time for city council meetings.

Based on past practice, what can the public expect to see?

Each department head will present their budget for next year, starting with basic background on why the department exists. The material for those representations is already public, in the form of the budget document, which weighs in at 340 pages.

Even if it’s possible to get up to speed on each department’s budget presentation just by reading the budget document, that’s a bit of a slog. In past years, the slide decks for the presentations have been posted on the city’s budget webpage at some point before the meeting starts.

The departmental presentation will be followed by questions from councilmembers. When their questions are exhausted, the public will likely have an opportunity to speak about the department’s presentation.

Each departmental presentation will wrap up with a “straw poll” on the department’s budget.

The straw polls have no legal significance. Councilmembers use their votes as a shorthand way of indicating to the administration that they would like to see a change in the department’s budget—between now and the final version of the budget that is presented in late September.

An abstention on a straw poll is often used by councilmembers as a way to express milder dissatisfaction than a no vote would.

The four-day schedule of departments is included below.

Many residents might wonder: What is a good way for the public to remain attentive during the Bloomington city council’s budget week?

As a way of staying alert, The B Square invites residents to try filling out a budget-themed bingo card. If anyone says a word or a phrase in a square on your card, mark the square. Here’s a link:  30 budget bingo cards. Find one you like and print it out. Or save one to your hard drive and fill it out in some digital fashion.

It’s advisable to keep budget bingo cards out of view of school-aged children. Parents with kids at home might discover that their children are more interested in budget bingo than in their homework. Please don’t allow your children to play budget bingo until they have finished their homework assignments.

For legal reasons, The B Square also discourages wagering on budget bingo outcomes. Also discouraged is the conversion of budget bingo into a drinking game.

Please help keep budget week safe for everyone.

[Links below go to the spot in the budget document .pdf where that section starts.]

Monday, 6 p.m. Aug. 23, 2021

Tuesday, 6 p.m. Aug. 24, 2021

Wednesday, 6 p.m. Aug. 25, 2021

Thursday, 6 p.m. Aug. 26, 2021

Council Comment on Budget Hearings