With some grumbles, $30K approved by Monroe County commissioners for Bloomington Economic Development Corporation

At its Wednesday meeting two weeks ago (Sept. 21), Monroe County commissioners approved an agreement that makes a $30,000 contribution to the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).

The BEDC is a nonprofit that works to promote retention, development, and attraction of jobs.

The $30,000 agreement with the BEDC featured a rare non-unanimous vote by county commissioners, even if none of the three cast a vote in opposition.

Abstaining from the vote was president of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas.

Thomas indicated that she does not see how the payment improves Monroe County government’s clout with the BEDC.

Monroe County government already pays the BEDC $10,000 a year for memberships in the organization, so Thomas thinks county government already has “a seat at the table.”

But the two votes in favor, from Lee Jones and Penny Githens, were enough to approve the agreement with the BEDC. Continue reading “With some grumbles, $30K approved by Monroe County commissioners for Bloomington Economic Development Corporation”

2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s roughly $107 million budget for 2022 was approved on a unanimous vote of the city council.

Two weeks ago some city councilmembers had threatened to vote against it.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers had recessed their meeting until this Wednesday.

Approval of next year’s budget came five days ahead of a statutory deadline, which makes Nov. 1 the last day it can be adopted.

Under state law, if the deadline for adoption had been missed, Bloomington would have had to get through 2022 with the same tax rate and levy as specified in the 2021 budget. That would have meant $1.2 million less in general fund revenue than was called for in Hamilton’s 2022 budget.

Hamilton’s 2022 budget fell short of councilmember expectations in two areas—police pay and climate action.

But in remarks explaining their support for the budget, councilmembers pointed to some positive movement on Hamilton’s part that they discerned in the administration’s news release from the day before. Continue reading “2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote”

$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week

In a news release issued early Tuesday afternoon, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has made a pitch to the city council to adopt his proposed 2022 budget.

B Square file photo. City council president Jim Sims (left) and Bloomington mayor John Hamilton chat before the celebration of the fire department’s top ISO rating at Switchyard Park on Oct. 15, 2021.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers recessed the meeting until this Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Tuesday’s news release raises two topics that have been sources of discord between the mayor and different groups of councilmembers: police pay and climate action.

Based on Tuesday’s news release, it appears that there might be a little bit of movement on the question of police pay.

But the news release does not describe any inclination to reopen the current collective bargaining agreement with the police union, one year ahead of the normal cycle. That had been the specific request from the council.

On the climate front, there’s a proposal in Tuesday’s release to issue $10 million in bonds next year—half through the general fund and half through parks—to undertake various climate initiatives. The pair of $5-million bond issuances might be repeated in five-year increments, according to Tuesday’s new release.

The news release also describes an additional staff position within the economic and sustainability department. But there’s no announcement of a position at the level of a climate action director, as some councilmembers want. Continue reading “$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week”

Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?

On Wednesday, when a decision was scheduled on the 2022 Bloomington budget, the city council chose to recess its meeting without voting, less than 90 minutes after it was called to order.

The recess came when it became apparent that the mayor’s budget did not have majority support on the nine-member council to pass that night.

Some councilmembers, like Dave Rollo, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include a re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union and a $5,000 base pay increase for sworn officers.

Other councilmembers, like Isabel Piedmont-Smith, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include an appropriation for a new job at the city—director of climate action.

That’s not an exhaustive list of all the changes councilmembers say they want to see, before they’ll vote to adopt the 2022 budget.

In any case, councilmembers want Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to make further revisions to the roughly $107 million budget, before they take it up again in two weeks. That amount does not include the budgets for Bloomington Transit (BT) and city of Bloomington utilities (CBU).

Before recessing its meeting, the council approved two of the appropriation ordinances that are part of the six-ordinance package of legislation that makes up the annual budget. Getting unanimous approval were the budgets for BT and city of Bloomington utilities CBU.

On Oct. 27, in addition to the appropriation ordinance for the basic city budget, the council will still have on its agenda three salary ordinances—one for police and fire, one for other city employees, and one for elected officials. Continue reading “Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?”

Column: Bloomington city council needs to shift out of park, into legislative gear

Bloomington’s city councilmembers want mayor John Hamilton’s administration to make policy choices that are consistent with the community’s values. And they want to see those choices reflected in the annual budget.

Otherwise put, Bloomington’s city council is like any other city council in America.

It’s a reasonable and normal expectation for the legislative branch of local government that the budget will be a reflection of local community priorities.

And that’s why the annual budget is the most important legislation considered by the city council every year.

But the budget is not the only piece of legislation that the city council could take up in the course of a calendar year. The legislative body does not need to wait for the administration to propose the annual budget or any other law.

Bloomington’s city council has, on occasion, proven that it’s aware of its own ability to originate new local laws.

For example, when some councilmembers determined that prohibiting turns on red lights at several additional downtown intersections would improve pedestrian safety, they initiated a traffic ordinance and worked with the city staff to get the details right. It was enacted as local law by the city council in early April.

But shifting itself out of park and into legislative gear is not an approach that appears to be favored by the council.

And that’s too bad.

On the upside, during budget season, some councilmembers seem to have sorted out a good answer to this question: What’s the clearest way to signal to the mayor what a majority of city councilmembers think? Take an actual vote. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington city council needs to shift out of park, into legislative gear”

Rumblings among Bloomington city council members about voting against 2022 budget

Climate action, non-motorized transportation, and police pay are current sticking points between Bloomington’s city council and mayor John Hamilton, as the 2022 city budget process builds towards a mid-October council vote.

At their committee-of-the-whole meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington city council members reviewed each of the legislative items that collectively make up the annual budget.

Three appropriation ordinances cover different pieces of the city’s finances—the city’s basic budget, city of Bloomington utilities, and Bloomington Transit. The other three items are salary ordinances for different categories of employees—police and fire; other city employees; and elected officials.

The final 2022 budget, which reflected just a few adjustments since the departmental hearings in August, totals around $107 million.

Based on the straw polls they took on Wednesday, some councilmembers will be voting against the appropriation ordinance for the basic budget—unless they see some concessions from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

Those concessions would need to be made between now and Oct. 13—that’s when an adoption vote is scheduled. Continue reading “Rumblings among Bloomington city council members about voting against 2022 budget”

Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay

Despite opposition from mayor John Hamilton’s administration, on Sept. 8, Bloomington’s city council approved a resolution supporting $5,000 more in base pay for police officers.

A “resolved” clause in Res 21-27 says in part that the city council “expresses its support for an increase to salaries for all sworn officers of the Bloomington Police Department by $5,000 and requests that the Mayor and city bargaining team pursue appropriate action to modify the collective bargaining agreement accordingly…”

One of the administration’s objections to the resolution was concern that it could interfere with the collective bargaining process with the police union, which is established under Bloomington city code.

Under Indiana state law, the mayor has to either approve or veto all ordinances or resolutions passed by the city council.

In the case of Res 21-27, which the council approved on Sept. 8 on a 7–1–1 vote, Hamilton signed off on it—that is, he didn’t veto the resolution.

But Hamilton did get in a last word of sorts. There’s an asterisk next to his signature that footnotes a comment from Hamilton:

I sign this document only to affirm that it declares the Common Council’s support for certain matters. There are several factual statements in the WHEREAS clauses that are not accurate, including in the third clause.

Continue reading “Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay”

Budget notebook: Final 2022 Bloomington budget released, $1,000 “retention pay” for police in 2021

Screenshot of a proposed amendment to the 2021 fire and police salary ordinance, to be given a first reading at the Bloomington city council’s Sept. 29 meeting.

The final 2022 budget, on which the Bloomington city council will be expected to take action in mid-October, was released late Friday afternoon.

It’s possible to find among the documents in the meeting information packet for Sept. 29 an additional $5,000 in pay for police officers.

But that figure does not mean a $5,000 increase in base pay this year, as called for in a city council resolution approved on Sept. 8.

Instead, what Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration appears to be proposing is to give officers an extra $1,000 in “retention pay” per quarter, starting in 2021.

There’s five quarters from now through the end of 2022. So an extra $1,000 for each of those quarters would add up to $5,000. Continue reading “Budget notebook: Final 2022 Bloomington budget released, $1,000 “retention pay” for police in 2021″

Bloomington city council to mull resolution on “certain inadequacies within the police budget”

The proposed 2022 budget for Bloomington’s police department will be the topic of a city council work session on Friday at noon, and a special meeting of the council set for 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

Up for discussion will be a resolution sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg and Ron Smith that “addresses certain inadequacies within the police budget,” according to Rollo.

News of the possible resolution came at the end of the city council’s Wednesday meeting, during the time when the council addresses scheduling matters.

The resolution is likely to call for an increase to the proposed 2022 police budget so that pay for officers can be bumped, which would probably require an earlier-than-scheduled reopening of the collective bargaining agreement with FOP Lodge 88.

Those are options that the city council discussed last week during its hearing on the police department’s budget. Continue reading “Bloomington city council to mull resolution on “certain inadequacies within the police budget””

Budget notebook: Bloomington police salary data

Much of last Tuesday’s Bloomington city council hearing on the police department’s 2022 budget focused on pay for Bloomington’s sworn officers.

A key question councilmembers were keen to get answered: How does compensation for Bloomington’s police officers stack up against compensation in other Indiana cities?

At last Tuesday’s meeting, Fraternal Order Police Lodge 88 representatives told councilmembers that BPD compensation ranks 68th out of the state’s roughly 153 departments—still in the top half, but not by much.

That’s consistent with the 2021 data that the FOP Lodge 88 has since provided to The B Square. Continue reading “Budget notebook: Bloomington police salary data”