Bloomington city council enacts 0.69-point tax increase for Monroe County residents on 9–0 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton did not get the full 0.855-point local income tax (LIT) increase he had asked Bloomington’s city council to approve.

But the council did approve a 0.69-point increase, which will generate around $14.5 million annually in new revenue for the city of Bloomington. The additional 0.69 points brings the countywide income tax rate to 2.035 percent.

The new rate will take effect on Oct. 1.

Based on the category of income tax used for the increase (economic development) and the method used for distribution (population-based), the additional 0.69 points will also mean additional annual revenue of around $10 million for Monroe County, around $1 million for Ellettsville, and around $40,000 for Stinesville.

Those are the only four units of government that receive a distribution under the economic development category of local income tax.

The original proposal from Hamilton would have generated about $18 million in annual revenue for Bloomington. The intended expenditures fall into four categories: climate change preparedness and mitigation; essential city services; public safety; and quality of life. Continue reading “Bloomington city council enacts 0.69-point tax increase for Monroe County residents on 9–0 vote”

Analysis: Does a local law need to change so a Bloomington public bus can run outside the city?

Map showing bus routes going outside of Bloomington city limits
Excerpt of map showing configuration of routes recommended by Bloomington Transit consultant in 2019.

If Bloomington Transit wanted to run buses outside of Bloomington’s city limits, what, if any, legal requirements would have to be met?

Specifically, what legal requirements would have to be met, in order for Bloomington Transit to serve educational and employment centers like Ivy Tech or Cook Medical—which are outside the city limits on the western edge of town?

In the last few years, the standard answer has been: An amendment to a local law  would have to be enacted by the city council.

But a closer look at the local law, and a state statute, suggests that a change to the local law might not be needed.

Instead, the city council would just have to approve any proposed bus service outside the city’s boundaries.

A request from BT to run buses to specific locations outside city limits could presumably be placed on the city council’s agenda by BT—just like approval of its annual budget and tax rate is placed on the city council’s agenda. BT could not force the city council to grant approval.

But that stands in contrast to an ordinance that would change city code. BT does not have the right to place a proposed change to city code on the city council’s agenda, much less force the council to enact it.

Why is this legal issue about the geography of BT’s service area somewhat pressing? Continue reading “Analysis: Does a local law need to change so a Bloomington public bus can run outside the city?”

Local income tax increase: Decision delayed by Bloomington city council to May 4

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council voted 8–0 to postpone consideration of a countywide local income tax increase until its next regular meeting, which is scheduled for May 4.

The vote to postpone came a few minutes after 9 p.m. That made for a meeting that lasted about two and a half hours. Councilmembers asked questions of the mayor and staff, heard another round of public commentary, and discussed the proposal among themselves.

It’s the city council’s second postponement of the LIT rate increase in as many weeks. The likely delay in the vote this week was announced by council president Susan Sandberg at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. Continue reading “Local income tax increase: Decision delayed by Bloomington city council to May 4”

Analysis: Bloomington city council to take up local income tax increase again this Wednesday

The sole item on this Wednesday’s special meeting of the Bloomington city council is a proposal to increase the countywide income tax by 0.855 points, which would bring Monroe County’s total rate to 2.2 percent.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton re-floated the idea of a local income tax increase at his “state of the city” address this February. It was an idea he had unsuccessfully pitched in 2020. The mayor gave details of this year’s proposal in early April.

If the city council approves a LIT rate increase by a vote of at least 8–1, that will increase the tax for all residents of Monroe County. If the approval gets fewer than eight votes from the Bloomington city council, then the proposal would need to pick up some support from county councilors and/or members of the Ellettsville town council. Continue reading “Analysis: Bloomington city council to take up local income tax increase again this Wednesday”

Striking IU grad student instructors pedal a lap through Bloomington’s downtown

Around 12:45 p.m. on Friday, about 60 bicyclists pedaled north on Walnut Street past the Monroe County courthouse with printed signs affixed to their machines that said, “ON STRIKE For Union Recognition.”

The chanted slogans like “What do we want? Union! When do we want it? Now!”

They were members of the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition – United Electrical Workers (IGWC). The members of the IGWC teach classes to undergraduates at Indiana University.

The group voted on Tuesday to continue their strike which started last week. The vote tally to continue the strike was 967 to 27, or 97.3 percent in favor, according to organizers.

Members of the IGWC voted last week to begin the strike, also with better than 97 percent in favor.

The action by the IGWC is considered by the university’s administration to be just a “work stoppage” and not a “strike” by a union.

The university administration’s refusal to recognize the IGWC as a union is the central grievance of the graduate student instructors. Continue reading “Striking IU grad student instructors pedal a lap through Bloomington’s downtown”

Local income tax increase postponed by Bloomington city council until April 27, but $11.6M in bonds OK’d

Bloomington’s city council has postponed its decision on an increase to Monroe County’s local income tax (LIT) rate.

On Wednesday, the vote on the motion to postpone was 8–1 with Steve Volan dissenting. The council will take up the matter again a week from Wednesday, at a special session on April 27.

Volan’s vote against postponement was not based on a desire to take a final vote on the LIT increase that night. Volan wanted some additional deliberation by the council on the question before postponement. The vote to postpone was taken at 10:52 p.m. almost four and a half hours after the meeting started, at 6:30 p.m.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has asked the council to consider an increase of 0.855 points, bringing Monroe County’s total rate to 2.2 percent.

If the city council approves the LIT rate increase by a vote of at least 8–1, that will increase the tax for all residents of Monroe County. If the approval gets fewer than eight votes of support, then the proposal would need to pick up some support from the county council and/or the Ellettsville town board.

Even though councilmembers did not take a vote on the LIT increase, they did approve the issuances of two $5.8 million general obligation bonds—one for a set of public works projects and the other for a set of parks projects. The board of park commissioners is set to take a final vote on the parks bonds on April 26. Continue reading “Local income tax increase postponed by Bloomington city council until April 27, but $11.6M in bonds OK’d”

Opinion: Local income tax increase, a way to heal rift between Bloomington, other stakeholders?

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council could take a final vote that would enact an increase to the local income tax (LIT) that is paid by all residents of Monroe County, whether they live inside the city limits or not.

two stacked bars side by side. Components of the layers are the different categories of LIT. The total height of the left bar is 1.345 which is the current rate. Adding in 0.855 of economic development category makes the right bar 2.2 high.
This article looks at the impact of enacting an additional 0.855 points in the certified shares (green) category of local income tax, instead of enacting the increase in the economic development category (lilac).

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has proposed an increase of 0.855 points, which would make the total rate 2.2 percent. For county residents who pay the tax, it would mean an extra $85 dollars paid on every $10,000 of taxable income.

At the city council’s Wednesday night corral, there’s the possibility of some political horse trading, based on the amount of increase to the rate. The horse trading could even lead to a delay in the final vote for at least another week.

At-large council representative Matt Flaherty said at last week’s meeting he would support the rate as proposed by the mayor. But he added, “In working to meet my colleagues somewhere in the middle, at the very least, I think I can come down to 0.65, and find a balance of what I think is most essential.”

The balance to be struck in the package proposed by Hamilton is between public safety and essential services on the one hand, and climate change mitigation and quality of life on the other.

The focus of the council’s consideration now appears to be just the rate, and how much revenue it would mean for the city of Bloomington.

I think it’s wrong to make that the sole focus of deliberations.

It’s wrong for at least two connected reasons. Continue reading “Opinion: Local income tax increase, a way to heal rift between Bloomington, other stakeholders?”

Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method

Community  discussion of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed increase to the countywide local income tax (LIT) has not included much mention of category of LIT called the “certified shares” category.

two stacked bars side by side. Components of the layers are the different categories of LIT. The total height of the left bar is 1.345 which is the current rate. Adding in 0.855 of economic development category makes the right bar 2.2 high.
This article looks at the impact of enacting an additional 0.855 points in the certified shares (green) category of local income tax, instead of enacting the increase in the economic development category (lilac).

But the certified shares category makes up the biggest part of the current countywide local income tax rate.  It’s the green chunk of the bars in the chart that accompanies this article.

The certified shares category has a current rate of 0.9482 percent.

For Monroe County, the total current LIT rate is 1.345 percent, which comes from adding an additional 0.25 points in the public safety category, 0.0518 points in the property tax relief category, and another 0.0950 points in a special purpose category. The special purpose LIT revenues are used for juvenile services.

It’s the certified shares category of LIT that many other units of local government rely on for some of their basic operating expenses.

Among those units are all the townships, the Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington Transit, and the Monroe Fire Protection District. Continue reading “Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method”

Upcoming local income tax negotiations could run deep, wide for Bloomington city council

Based on the Bloomington city council’s discussion at its committee-of-the whole meeting on Wednesday, Monroe County residents will likely see a higher local income tax (LIT) rate than the 1.345 percent they pay now.

But given the way deliberations unfolded at Wednesday’s committee meeting, the higher rate will not reflect the full amount of the 0.855 point increase that Bloomington’s mayor has pitched to them.

Adding the extra 0.855 percent would bring Monroe County’s total local income tax rate to 2.2 percent.

Some councilmembers expressed concerns about the size of the increase. But there seems to be a basic agreement on the city’s legislative body about one thing: The city of Bloomington needs additional revenue.

City controller Jeff Underwood displayed a bar chart comparing existing revenue sources to expenditures over the next four years. The bars show a deficit of around $5 million each year.

One of the needs Underwood has identified is to increase the compensation of city workers in order to stay competitive, even with other local employers, Underwood said. “We’re not losing people to Carmel—we’re losing people to Ellettsville,” he added.

During public commentary, the heads of the city’s firefighter and municipal worker unions confirmed that the city is losing people to other higher-paying jobs that are not with the city of Bloomington.

Several of the remarks from councilmembers on Wednesday seemed to coalesce around the idea of finding some rate of increase that all nine councilmembers could live with.

The LIT increase, along with two $5 million bond issuances appear on the council’s April 20 agenda for a potential vote. Continue reading “Upcoming local income tax negotiations could run deep, wide for Bloomington city council”

Bloomington city council balks for now at vacating some public right-of-way on former hospital site

A request from Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) to vacate parts of two alleys in one of the blocks near the former site of the IU Health hospital was denied by Bloomington’s city council at its Wednesday meeting.

The vote was split 4–5, but not along familiar lines.

Voting to give up the right-of-way were: Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Sue Sgambelluri, Jim Sims, and Ron Smith. Voting against the vacation of the alleys were: Matt Flaherty, Dave Rollo, Kate Rosenbarger, Susan Sandberg, and Steve Volan.

The RDC’s request came in connection with the planned redevelopment of the site, which Bloomington is acquiring from the health provider in a $6.5 million real estate deal. Continue reading “Bloomington city council balks for now at vacating some public right-of-way on former hospital site”