Why is the city of Bloomington allowing $1,400,000 for a single item in the 2023 budget that has for the last three full calendar years averaged about $990,000 in actual cost?
That’s basically what city councilmember Matt Flaherty wanted to know last Wednesday night.
Table: Prior actuals versus 2023 budget for general fund support of sanitation
Flaherty was focused on a particular item in the budget that he eventually wants to eliminate completely—a transfer from the general fund to the sanitation fund. The transfer supports curbside waste collection service.
But that focus revealed a pattern.
At Wednesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, Flaherty reported he’d reviewed the numbers for that fund transfer over the last four years—budgeted versus actual. And he’d discovered that on average for a four-year period the city had over-budgeted that general fund transfer to sanitation by about $550,000 every year, or by more than 50 percent.
Bloomington deputy mayor, Don Griffin. (Sept. 28, 2022)
Bloomington mayor John Hamilton addresses the city council about the 2023 budget (Sept. 28, 2022)
AFSCME Local 2487 president Bradley Rushton. (Sept. 28, 2022)
“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.
As soon as next week (Oct. 4, 2022), residents of the area south of Indiana University’s campus could start seeing new crews working in Bloomington’s public right-of-way to install fiber optic connections.
AEG will be working for Hoosier Networks, the company formed by Paris-based Meridiam to do business locally. When construction is complete, the network is supposed to provide 1-Gigabit service to at least 85 percent of Bloomington.
The proposal got just one vote of support, from Ron Smith.
The historical background goes back around 100 years. More recently, in 2014, the city council considered, but ultimately denied ,a package of vacation requests, that also included Lowenstein’s. The vote eight years ago was 3–4, with two councilmembers absent—Steve Volan and Dave Rollo.
After more than two hours of deliberation on Wednesday, the Bloomington city council postponed until Oct. 6 further consideration of new boundaries for city council districts.
The council’s special meeting, now set for Oct. 6, coincides with the Democratic Party’s Vi Taliaferro Dinner—an annual fundraiser that is scheduled to start at the council’s usual meeting time of 6:30 p.m.
That’s why the all-Democrat council voted 9–0 to convene its special meeting for Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. The council set a time limit of one hour.
The council’s annual calendar had already called for a committee meeting on Oct. 6—which is a Thursday, instead of the usual Wednesday. The one-day shift avoids a conflict with Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday. The council canceled that committee meeting in favor of the one-hour special meeting.
On Oct. 6, the council could vote to adopt the new map that has been recommended by Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission.
Another option would be to reject the map, and send the matter back to the five-member redistricting commission with the reasons for the council’s rejection.
The Bloomington Transit (BT) board will be drafting a thank-you letter to the city council for the council’s resolution passed unanimously in early September.
The resolution expressed support for the idea of extending public bus service outside the city limits to Daniels Way, if Monroe County government covers the incremental cost.
And BT general manager John Connell will be giving the board a couple of different alternatives for providing some service out to Daniels Way—which would likely mean a loop around Ivy Tech, Cook Medical, and other employers.
Those are two concrete steps the BT board and Connell settled on after chewing on the topic for a bit at the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
But the informal conversation on the subject indicated that BT has a vision that includes more than extending one specific route a mile and a half outside the city boundaries.
The discussion took place as ridership on regular fixed route service is showing signs that it’s starting to rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The image is from the April 2022 Pictometry module of the Monroe County online property lookup system.
A gravel path across the top of Griffy dam, including staircase access and safety fencing, with an estimated cost of $375,000, now has approval in concept as a Bloomington redevelopment commission project.
The unanimous vote by the five-member Bloomington RDC came at the group’s regular meeting on Monday. No expenditure of funds was approved with Monday’s vote.
It’s currently possible for hikers to get across the dam by going through a fence, Bloomington parks operations manager Tim Street told the RDC. But the new path will “formalize” the crossing and in places improve the aesthetics of chain link with cedar split rail fence.