2023 Bloomington budget notebook: Built-in padding of 50 percent or more?

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

Department Fund Account
Description 19 Actual 20 Actual 21 Actual 22 OK’d  23 Propsd
 16-Sanitation General  539010 Fund Transfer $985,625 $1,009,620 $978,492 $1,519,146 $1,419,146

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.

Flaherty wanted to know why the city was “padding” the general fund support for the sanitation fund by that much. Continue reading “2023 Bloomington budget notebook: Built-in padding of 50 percent or more?”

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”

Fiber network with 1-Gigabit internet service likely to start construction work in Bloomington next week

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.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday this week,  the city’s board of public works is set to approve a request from AEG (Atlantic Engineering Group)  to work in the public right-of-way installing high-speed internet fiber underground as well as between utility poles.

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.

Other providers have previously been granted access to work in Bloomington’s public right of way to install broadband connections. Continue reading “Fiber network with 1-Gigabit internet service likely to start construction work in Bloomington next week”

Denied by Bloomington: Request to vacate two strips of right-of-way where parts of buildings stand

If a property owner asks the city of Bloomington to give up some public-right-of-way, the city’s default answer is no.

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council hewed to that basic standard, when eight of nine councilmembers voted against Solomon Lowenstein’s request for vacation of two strips of land.

The property is in the northeast part of the city, just south of 11th Street near the B-Line Trail.

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.

Why did Lowenstein, then as now, want the city to give up some land that is owned by the public? Continue reading “Denied by Bloomington: Request to vacate two strips of right-of-way where parts of buildings stand”

New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6

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.

Or the council could again postpone any decision. Continue reading “New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6”

Bloomington Transit mulls impact of city council resolution on extension of service outside city

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 178,423 fixed-route rides in August of this year amount to 90 percent of the rides given in August of 2019, which totaled 199,118 rides. Through most of this year, BT had been running between 55 and 60 percent of 2019 ridership. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit mulls impact of city council resolution on extension of service outside city”

Believed armed suspect extracted from Bloomington stormwater system after day-long saga

By around 5:30 p.m. a man believed to have been armed with a rifle was removed from the stormwater culvert near 6th Street and Indiana Avenue on the edge of Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.

It’s the place where the Campus River starts its journey under downtown Bloomington, flowing southwest.

A statement from Bloomington police said, “The suspect has been safely removed from the storm drain and will be transported to an area hospital to be evaluated. ”

That ended a day-long saga that started around 9:30 a.m., about a half mile southwest of 6th and Indiana—south of Seminary Park, along 1st Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street.

[This article has been updated below with additional information from a BPD news release issued shortly after midnight.]

Continue reading “Believed armed suspect extracted from Bloomington stormwater system after day-long saga”

Griffy dam trail crossing gets OK from Bloomington RDC: “It’s not within the TIF—it’s serving the TIF.”

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.

The Griffy dam trail crossing is on the list of projects approved by the Bloomington city council and the board of park commissioners in May this year, as part of a $10-million bond package. Half that amount was was made up of parks bonds.

When Bloomington’s city council gave its approval for issuance of the parks bonds, it put the dam crossing last on in its priority ranking.

The low priority ranking by the city council is key to the RDC’s agreement now to make the dam crossing one of its projects to be paid for out of tax increment finance (TIF) revenue. Continue reading “Griffy dam trail crossing gets OK from Bloomington RDC: “It’s not within the TIF—it’s serving the TIF.””

Election equipment for Monroe County passes logic, accuracy test

Monroe County’s election equipment, manufactured by Hart InterCivic has passed the logic and accuracy test mandated under state statute.

The test was conducted with help from Bob and Lori White, with B&L IT Services, which is a contractor the county uses for logistics and technical support in connection with elections.

The test took place at 9:30 a.m. on Monday at the old Johnson Hardware building at 7th and Madison streets, aka Election Central.

After a test deck of 22 ballots was fed into each of the three machines, and the machines tallied up the results, every candidate in every race received 4 votes. That meant the devices selected for testing passed with 100 percent accuracy. Continue reading “Election equipment for Monroe County passes logic, accuracy test”