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”

From poison ivy, to public transit, to parks bond money, Bloomington 2022 budget hearings prompt question: Whose job is it?

Wednesday’s city council hearings on the administration’s proposed 2022 budget featured presentations from four different city of Bloomington departments—housing and neighborhood development (HAND)economic and sustainable development (ESD), community and family resources (CFRD), and parks and recreation.

Also a part of the mix on Wednesday was a presentation from the Bloomington Housing Authority, and the city clerk’s office.

One of the common themes that cut across comments about the presentations—from councilmembers and the public—could be reduced to the question: Whose job is it?

Whose job is it to clear poison ivy from places where it has overgrown a sidewalk? Whose job is it to staff the front desk in the combined council-clerk office?

Whose job is it to decide whether a parks bonds can be used for a traffic calming project instead of a non-motorized trail? Whose job is it within the administration to advocate for public transit?

The issue of advocacy for public transit led to a chippy exchange between deputy mayor Don Griffin and councilmember Steve Volan—who’s in his 18th year of service on the city council.

Griffin asked Volan a pointed question: “How long have you been in government?” Continue reading “From poison ivy, to public transit, to parks bond money, Bloomington 2022 budget hearings prompt question: Whose job is it?”

Bloomington councilmembers want to consider paying police more in 2022, ahead of collective bargaining negotiations

A majority of Bloomington city councilmembers sound like they would support paying the city’s police officers more than the amount specified in the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2022.

That’s based on deliberations that took place Tuesday, the second of four nights of hearings by the council this week on each department’s proposed 2022 budget.

Councilmembers are worried that Bloomington’s pay is not competitive enough to recruit and retain officers to achieve the currently authorized staffing levels. That doesn’t factor in the roughly 30 officers called for by the fiscal plan that’s a part of the city’s annexation proposal.

Bloomington’s police department is authorized to hire up to 105 authorized sworn officers, but has just 93 on staff, of which only 76 are available, according to police chief Mike Diekhoff. The number who aren’t available to respond to calls includes those who are on military leave, on light duty due to injury, and also those still in training.

According to police union representatives, the department has hired 66 new officers but lost 67, since Hamilton became mayor in 2016. Continue reading “Bloomington councilmembers want to consider paying police more in 2022, ahead of collective bargaining negotiations”

Bloomington city council critical on first night of 2022 budget hearings: police, parking, sidewalks

On Monday, the first night of departmental hearings on Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2022 budget, several city councilmembers conveyed their dissatisfaction about one or more aspects of next year’s financial plan.

Those points of friction included police officer compensation, a parking cashout program for city employees, and alternative transportation funding.

Even though Tuesday is the night scheduled for public safety budgets, Hamilton fielded sharp questions on Monday from councilmembers Dave Rollo and Susan Sandberg about the adequacy of compensation for Bloomington police officers.

Rollo even floated the idea that the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the police union could be reopened to provide higher compensation. The current CBA, approved in late 2019, runs through 2022.

Rollo and Sandberg have concerns about recruitment and retention of police officers. Bloomington currently has 92 sworn officers, which is 13 fewer than the 105 that are authorized.

Rollo doesn’t see the $250,000 pool of retention and recruitment funds in the 2022 budget as adequate.

At one point during Monday’s meeting, Sandberg asked Hamilton, “Do you feel the same sense of urgency that some of us do from having talked to our officers that are currently stressed to a point that I think is almost bordering on a crisis?”

The topic of police staffing levels is certain to be a highlight of Tuesday’s budget hearing, when police chief Mike Diekhoff presents his department’s budget.

Unlike the individual departmental budget presentations, Hamilton’s overview of the budget on Monday was not subjected to an informal straw poll.

The dissatisfaction expressed by the council at Monday’s meeting was not confined to the mayor’s overview.

If the city council’s straw polls had any legal significance, only two of the six departmental budgets presented on Monday would have been approved. The tallies on the straw polls (yes-no-abstain) were: human resources (3–1–5); legal (8–0–1); information technology (4–0–5); council office (6–2–1); controller (4–4–1); and mayor’s office (5–0–4). Continue reading “Bloomington city council critical on first night of 2022 budget hearings: police, parking, sidewalks”