2023 Bloomington budget notebook: Trash talk, cart fees, general fund

Some Bloomington residents could soon see significant increases in their trash collection fees.

But trash cart fees are laid out in city code, separate from the city budget.

So the city council’s upcoming decisions on the city’s 2023 budget will not affect trash collection fees.

Any decision to increase trash cart fees would come later in the year, in the form of a separate ordinance change enacted by the city council.

And Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2023 budget does not assume any increase in trash cart collection fees. Continue reading “2023 Bloomington budget notebook: Trash talk, cart fees, general fund”

Initial talk: Bloomington city council balks on 2023 budget, likely looking for better employee pay before late October vote

“Rather than have a transformative budget, I would like a budget that is fair and equitable to our city employees.”

On Wednesday night, that’s how Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo summed up his thoughts on mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2023 budget.

Rollo’s choice of words was not accidental—Hamilton has pitched his budget as “transformative.”

There’s no question the dollar figure is bigger. Hamilton’s $129.4-million budget proposed for 2023 is $22.4 million more than last year, fueled by $16 million in additional revenue from a 0.69-point increase in the local income tax.

Rollo and several of his city council colleagues don’t think the proposed 5-percent increase in employee base compensation is enough to retain and recruit city employees.

The rate of inflation measured between December 2020 and December 2021 was 7.5 percent. From August 2021 to August 2022, it was 8.1 percent.

Faced with high inflation many city employees are leaving for better-paying jobs. From August 2021 through July of 2022, 122 city employees have left the city for one reason or another. That’s 35 percent more than the 90 employees who left the year before.

And it’s in the neighborhood of double the 66 departures from August 2019 to July 2022 and the 69 departures in the year before that. Of the 42 employees who have completed an exit survey this year, 19 have said their new position offers a higher salary.

So on Wednesday at the council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, the tally for the council’s straw poll vote was 0–6–3. That means not one of nine councilmembers was willing to say they’d support the mayor’s budget when it comes time for the actual vote on adoption, which is set for Oct. 12. Continue reading “Initial talk: Bloomington city council balks on 2023 budget, likely looking for better employee pay before late October vote”

Column: New Bloomington city council districts should get a vote on Sept. 21, but probably won’t

Last Wednesday, Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission voted to recommend a set of new population-balanced districts for the city council, which would be used starting with the 2023 city elections.

This Wednesday morning (Sept. 7), the advisory commission is set to take a vote on the report that will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration.

Based on its current schedule, the city council could—if it set its collective mind to it—take a vote to adopt or reject the new map and report as soon as the regular council meeting that is set for Sept. 21.

But under the city’s redistricting ordinance, the council could wait almost six weeks, until Nov. 1, to adopt or reject the advisory commission’s map.

Still, the current lull—between last week’s departmental budget presentations and the first reading of the final 2023 budget set for Sept. 28—makes for a perfect time for the city council to give the recommended map an up-or-down vote. Continue reading “Column: New Bloomington city council districts should get a vote on Sept. 21, but probably won’t”

Bloomington 2023 budget notebook: Compensation, scooters, fire stations, trash fees, coins for parking

The hour was close to 11:30 p.m. on Thursday when Bloomington’s city council wrapped its fourth night of departmental budget presentations in a row, each starting at 6 p.m.

Over the four days, the council racked up a total of 17 hours and 40 minutes worth of meeting time.

That intense burst of activity will be followed by the submission of written followup questions by city councilmembers to the administration. Based on past practice, answers to those questions will eventually be released, sometime before the 2023 budget ordinances get a first reading in front of the city council.

The first readings are currently set for a little more than three weeks from now, on Sept. 28.  The city’s 2023 budget is currently set for adoption by the council on Oct. 12. Continue reading “Bloomington 2023 budget notebook: Compensation, scooters, fire stations, trash fees, coins for parking”

New Bloomington council district lines proposed, advisory commission report set for Sept. 7 adoption

On a 4–0 vote taken on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission settled on new boundary lines for the six city council districts, which will be recommended by the group to the city council.

The commission is set to meet next Wednesday (Sept. 7) to finalize its report on the recommended map.

The city council has until Nov. 1 to either adopt or reject the recommended map. If it’s rejected, the redistricting advisory commission has until Dec. 1 to respond to the council. Under state law, the city council has to adopt a new population-balanced map by the end of the year.

The work for city council redistricting takes place in the second year following the decennial census. The point of redistricting work is to restore population balance to the districts that might have shifted in the last 10 years.

Highlights of the new map include the prominence of 3rd Street as an east-west running boundary that is generally respected by every district—with one exception.

The 3rd Street boundary corresponds to the line between Bloomington Township and Perry Township. Political subdivisions like townships are among the “communities of interest” described in local code, which proposed new districts are supposed to avoid splitting. Continue reading “New Bloomington council district lines proposed, advisory commission report set for Sept. 7 adoption”

$129M in 2023: Bloomington mayor asks city council to approve 21% bigger budget for next year

The 2023 budget  that has been proposed by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton comes in at $129.2 million, which is about 21 percent more than last year.

That’s the figure in city controller Jeff Underwood’s memo, which was released on Monday at 2 p.m. A  news release came a few minutes later.

Hamilton delivered the proposal to the city council on Monday evening.

The budget reflects a 5-percent pay increase for non-union workers, plus a $250 quarterly bonus, for a total of $1,000 in bonuses.

Hamilton’s presentation was followed by a financial overview from city controller Jeff Underwood and an overview of compensation by human resources director Caroline Shaw.

After that, the council received departmental budget briefings from several departments: human resources; clerk’s office; legal department; information and technology services; city council; controller; and office of the mayor.

The departmental budget breakdowns were released last Friday.  The departmental budget presentations to the council will continue over the next three nights, all starting at 6 p.m.  The B Square will report reaction from councilmembers separately.

The $129 million reflects all of the city’s departments, but does not include city of Bloomington utilities, Bloomington Transit, or the Bloomington Housing Authority. Adding in the budgets for those three entities brings the total to about $229 million.

Changes residents will notice

Part of the budget proposal includes reductions in some city services, increased costs to residents, or changes to current practice.

Continue reading “$129M in 2023: Bloomington mayor asks city council to approve 21% bigger budget for next year”

“Go Bloomington” branding for promotion of transportation options to launch in early September

The formal launch of Go Bloomington is set for Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. That’s the branding that has been chosen for the city’s effort to promote transportation options that are different from driving alone.

It’s meant to help the city achieve a number of goals, including: reducing carbon emissions; optimizing use of parking capacity; and decreasing traffic congestion.

Some options that will be promoted by Go Bloomington as preferable to driving alone in a car will be: walking, bicycling, riding the public bus, riding shared electric scooters, carpooling, vanpooling and telecommuting.

At their Wednesday meeting, Bloomington city councilmembers were briefed on Go Bloomington by the city’s transportation demand manager, Jeff Jackson. Continue reading ““Go Bloomington” branding for promotion of transportation options to launch in early September”

Bethel AME church now historic district, more Bloomington sites key to Black history could be next

On a unanimous vote by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church was designated as a historic district.

The 1922 church, which sits on the northeast corner of 7th and Rogers streets on the western edge of downtown, was designed in the classical revival Tudor style by John Nichols.

But the church qualifies for historical designation based on more than just its architectural significance. It also qualifies under criteria that include the cultural and historical significance of a site.

During public comment time, Elizabeth Mitchell told the city council, “This is just the beginning for me—a personal journey to make sure that we don’t forget African American sites. This is just one of them.”

Mitchell introduced herself as a historian for Monroe County on African American experience. She also serves on the city’s historic preservation commission. Continue reading “Bethel AME church now historic district, more Bloomington sites key to Black history could be next”

Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council

Bloomington’s Bethel AME church, which sits on the northeast corner of 7th and Rogers streets on the western edge of downtown, is set to receive historic designation from the city council at its meeting next Wednesday (Aug. 17).

The parsonage, which sits to the north of the church, will also receive a vote on its historic designation.

This Wednesday, four members of the city council got a preview of the agenda item at a scheduled committee-of-the-whole meeting. The meeting turned out to be just a gathering, not an official meeting, because a quorum of five was not achieved. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council”

Bloomington’s municipal workers turn out for city council meeting, labor negotiations continue

A couple dozen members of the AFSCME Local 2487 attended Bloomington’s Wednesday city council meeting, to highlight for councilmembers their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations with mayor John Hamilton’s administration—without getting into details of those talks.

As Local 2487 president Bradley Rushton put it, “I cannot discuss any aspect of the current state of affairs between the union and the city reps.”

But union members are looking for better compensation than their current four-year contract gives them.  The current labor agreement runs through the end of 2022.

The acronym for the union name stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union includes workers in utilities, the street and fleet divisions of public works, parks and recreation, sanitation, and the animal shelter, among others. Rushton serves the city as a fleet maintenance master technician.

Rushton led off his remarks during public commentary with a word of thanks to the city council for supporting the police union in their efforts to negotiate better compensation. In September last year, the city council  passed a resolution supporting more money for police officers.

The police union is on the same four-year contractual cycle as the AFSCME workers. Earlier this year, in mid-May, the city council approved a contract with police officers that started with a 13-percent increase in the first year.

The city’s administration had made the police contract contingent on the council’s approval of an increase to the local income tax, which the council gave in early May.

Rushton told the city council that fair compensation has to address the rate of inflation. Continue reading “Bloomington’s municipal workers turn out for city council meeting, labor negotiations continue”