Bloomington mayor unveils $20M more in one-time spending on first night of budget hearings

On Monday, Bloomington’s city council held the week’s first night of departmental budget hearings.

Three more nights of hearings are set to follow on successive days.

One piece of big news about the spending plan for 2024 came from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s introductory remarks.

To a basic budget of $131 million, which was released late last Friday, Hamilton wants to add $20 million in one-time spending, using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds and former CRED (Community Revitalization Enhancement District) money.

The money is supposed to be spent on five broad categories of items: infrastructure; housing; jobs and climate; diversity, equity and inclusion; and public health.

The ARPA and CRED package is one of three main themes that Hamilton has identified for his eighth and final budget of his two terms as mayor.

A Democrat, Hamilton will be leaving office at the end of the year. He did not seek re-election. The Democratic Party’s nominee in this year’s municipal election, Kerry Thomson, is almost certain to be the next mayor starting in 2024. She is unopposed on the Nov. 7 ballot.

A second theme of the 2024 budget is investment in the city’s workforce. The 2024 budget includes a 5-percent increase in salary for non-union employees, and a $500 one-time bonus. Firefighters will receive extra money to make up the difference between the 2-percent increase in their collective bargaining agreement and a 5-percent raise.

A new employee health clinic is on course to open before the end of the year, but no location has yet been identified, according to Hamilton.

A third theme that Hamilton has identified for the 2024 budget is public safety. The mayor announced that several recommendations from a 911 review committee were included in the budget, among them a pilot program for responding to some kinds of calls with non-sworn officers. Welfare checks are an example of the type of call that would get responses from non-sworn officers, Hamilton said.

A couple of slides with a more detailed breakdown of the ARPA/CRED package were provided by the mayor’s office to the city council office just 15 minutes before Monday’s meeting started.

At Monday’s meeting, councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith said, “My only comment is that I would have much appreciated seeing the ARPA/CRED fund proposals much earlier.”

The infrastructure projects in the package include: downtown and garage enhancements; greenways; matching money for the federal Safe Streets for All program; sidewalk improvements; traffic signal modernization and replacement; street pavement for buses and bikes.

Housing projects include: support for affordable home ownership; homeless and very low income support; and workforce rent.

A table of the proposed spending is included below.

Hamilton told city councilmembers on Monday that he wanted their feedback on the $20 million in expenditures that are to be funded with ARPA and CRED money.

He put it like this: “This proposal of $20 million is not written in stone.” Hamilton continued, “We are presenting a series of recommended investments that we believe will bring our community extraordinary value. If a majority of council prefers different allocations, we welcome those discussions in coming days and weeks.”

Hamilton’s unveiling of a plan on Monday to spend ARPA money can’t have been too much of a surprise to anyone who was tracking Bloomington’s ARPA expenditures. Bloomington has something like $10 to $12 million in its ARPA fund, and the money has to be obligated by the end of 2024.

But in the proposed 2024 budget released late last Friday there were no planned expenditures of ARPA money for 2024.

The question of how Bloominton was planning to get its remaining ARPA funds obligated by the end of 2024 got its answer in the form of the $20-million package of expenditures that the mayor unveiled.

By way of background, Bloomington received about $22 million through the ARPA, which was a
a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill  signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021, to help counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By the end of 2022, Bloomington had spent about $5.2 million and showed about $16.9 million in its ARPA fund balance. For 2023, there were $4.9 million in budgeted expenditures from APRA funds. That means by the end of 2023 (this year), there would be around $12 million in ARPA funds left—to be obligated in 2024.

The CRED funds that are a part of the package have a separate origin. The CRED story starts in 1997, when the city council created a Bloomington Industrial Development Fund and a Bloomington Industrial Development Advisory Commission.

By the end of 2022, Bloomington had about $17 million in unspent money from its two CRED districts. When the CRED districts reached the end of their life, the remaining money in the funds was transferred to the city’s general fund.

At Monday’s meeting, councilmember Steve Volan asked Bloomington’s corporation counsel Beth Cate why the CRED money was not left in its separate CRED funds, so that it could be more easily tracked. Cate replied: “I believe the thinking about moving it…at the time was that we had reached the sort of statutory end effectively of what they were doing—they hadn’t operated in a while.”

Cate continued, “And I think it’s all kind of laid out in the documents that we created at the time. But the idea was this would free up uses for the fund, it wouldn’t restrict the fund in any way, in terms of what it could be intended to use.”

In fact, the reason that the CRED funds were transferred into the city general fund, after the CRED district expired, appears to be that the transfer is required under state law.

Bloomington’s budget week continues on Tuesday starting at 5:30 p.m. with presentations from Bloomington Transit, city of Bloomington utilities, the fire department, and the police department.

ARPA/CRED project package
Category Description Amount
Infrastructure downtown and garage enhancements $2,000,000
Infrastructure greenways $1,200,000
Infrastructure Safe Streets for All $2,000,000
Infrastructure sidewalk improvement $1,000,000
Infrastructure signal modernization and replacement $2,700,000
Infrastructure street pavement for buses & bikes $2,000,000
Total Infra $10,900,000
Housing affordable ownership $2,250,000
Housing homeless and very low income $500,000
Housing workforce rent $2,250,000
Total Housing $5,000,000
Jobs and Climate job support & growth/economic development $925,000
Jobs and Climate solar/climate support $575,000
 Total Jobs, Climate $1,500,000
DEI CFRD and HR $500,000
DEI digital equity and it accessibility $150,000
DEI parks accessibility: construction & equipment $600,000
Total DEI $1,250,000
Public Health collaboration mental health, substance use disorder $1,000,000
Total Public Health $1,000,000
Grand Total $19,650,000

6 thoughts on “Bloomington mayor unveils $20M more in one-time spending on first night of budget hearings

  1. As long as the projects being proposed with the CRED funds are actually occurring in that previous CRED district(s) (redundant) I suppose that meets the smell test. The CRED dollars were collected from businesses and transactions in that district (in addition to the general property, income and sales taxes everyone else pays) and they should be the primary beneficiaries of any infrastructure or community development projects that use CRED money.

    1. During the Hamilton administration, how many times did the Bloomington Industrial Development Advisory Committee meet? What CRED projects did BIDAC approve during the Hamilt0n Administration? I suspect the unfaithfulness to CRED’s intent was Hamilt0n’s objective from day one (i.e. CRED as a mayoral slush fund.

      1. The word “accomplished” would appear to be in the eye of the beholder whether the language constitutes the CRED funds are “required” to be transferred to the GF.

        “When the purposes for which the industrial development fund was established have been accomplished and all districts designated by the unit have been terminated under section 19 of this chapter, the balance remaining in that fund shall be transferred to the general fund of the unit and the authority for the levy of the tax provided by section 4 of this chapter ceases.”

  2. Good work as ever, with detail, context & corrections of officials’ mistatements/misperceptions.
    Are the allocation amount$ per category just general, or attached to particular projects?

  3. i can’t wait to see how the infrastructure money is actually spent! the way things have been going, there’s a lot of potential, a lot of great things in the pipeline looking for funding. but there’s also a lot of possibility for waste, for things that look like bike and ped funding to instead turn into just a backdoor way to fund our unsustainable investment in car facilities.

    for example, that’s enough greenway fund to do about 2-3 miles of greenway, it could take out a big chunk of the “phase 2 priority bike network 4-6 years” (that’s supposed to be *complete* by about 2026). or it could be eaten up on a relatively small number of projects that don’t cover much mileage…the greenways implementation is really flexible in terms of how much money they spend per mile, and there are pluses and minuses all around but if the money isn’t going to be a recurring investment then it would be sad to see it not go very far.

    the SSFA funding could go a lot of different ways. i don’t even have a guess how they might spend that. it could go into urgently-needed emergency safety interventions in high crash locations. that would be so awesome! but it’s also so easy for city government to spend money on piddling improvements for pedestrians and “while they’re at it” throw the bulk of the money at stormwater drainage or repaving. a lot of pedestrian headline projects (like the 17th st sidepath) have turned into ways to bail out deferred maintenance on non-ped infrastructure.

    “downtown and garage enhancements” is another mystery. when something is paired like that, i always expect the worst. they’re gonna spend $10k on some flowers and then $1.99M bailing out the maintenance budget for our garages? i have no idea…i’m just a cynic.

    “sidewalk improvement” – are we still funding sidewalk maintenance one year at a time? we need it every year. or will this get spent on new sidewalks? i want new sidewalks but we have a $30M hole of missing sidewalks on high traffic through streets, $1M is a joke. if we’re not going to spend at least $10M on new sidewalks next year then there’s more efficient uses for piddly sums like $1M.

    “signal modernization” is so exciting but also full of caveats. almost all of our signals are misconfigured all over the city, and it seems like every time public works staff fixes one issue, they break something else. i’d like to believe it’s because the equipment is so old, but it took a solid year after the new 3rd & indiana signal was installed before it was properly configured — but now it does work correctly! but the 2nd & landmark signal is already suffering repeated ped xing failures, and it was installed new in 2019! why are new signals also broken? if new equipment doesn’t fix the problem, why spend money on new equipment? we need to get to the bottom of what the actual hold up is, and correct that, instead of just throwing money at hardware. maybe they’ll do that with this money, or maybe they won’t, but the lack of transparency on traffic signals in particular is absurd and debilitating.

    ffs, we already installed the 17th street sidepath across N Walnut but that light *STILL* doesn’t ever give a ‘white walk’ signal in the evenings…why are we installing an expensive oversized sidewalk, and then not even configuring the software for our signals correctly? software should be the cheap part of the project. i understand nothing’s easy, and i can forgive failures…but we need to actually find the failure in order to fix it.

    i don’t want to put too much on one person but the silver lining in all of this is that the Engineering Department is finally picking up steam, now that it’s had a permanent head for a few consecutive years now. a lot of problems just come down to the fact that there is no link between Public Works and Planning, and the Engineering Department is finally serving that role. there’s a real possibility that Engineering staff is actually aware of what needs to be done to fix these chronic problems in Public Works and might even be working behind the scenes to make these investments actually work. crossing my fingers for luck!

  4. “A couple of slides with a more detailed breakdown of the ARPA/CRED package were provided by the mayor’s office to the city council office just 15 minutes before Monday’s meeting started.”

    In Bloomington, King John, a million dollar spend did decree;
    Where Jordan, the once known river, runs
    Through tunnels measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.

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