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’s public transit looks to COVID-19 recovery in 2021

On Wednesday night, Bloomington Transit general manager Lew May presented his 22nd annual budget to Bloomington’s city council.

It was a part of the four-day series of 2021 budget presentations heard by the council this week. The council won’t see a final version of the budget until late September and won’t take a vote on it until October.

A highlight of BT’s 2021 budget is the way it maintains a course set in 2020, for the acquisition of electric buses. Three more are budgeted for next year. They show up in the capital expenditure breakdown of the $14.5 million total budget.

The planned 2021 capital expenditures are $5.2 million, which is about 8 percent more than last year’s $4.8 million. Compared to 2019, the 2020 capital expense figure was nearly double. Continue reading “Bloomington’s public transit looks to COVID-19 recovery in 2021”

COVID-19 impact: 2021 budget previewed by Bloomington mayor shows more expenses than revenues

Single Bar Barchart of City Budget 2021 preview
Re: the gray bar. A detailed breakdown of proposed major categories of expenses has not yet been released for the proposed 2021 Bloomington budget.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2021 budget will be presented by city department heads next week in four sessions that will take place over successive nights, starting Monday.  [Updated at 1:22 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2020. The proposed budget has now been posted to the city’s website.]

During Friday’s media preview of his proposed budget for next year, Hamilton reflected on this year’s numbers compared to the four budgets he presented in his first term as mayor. “This is my first non-balanced budget,” Hamilton said, “meaning the expenses are higher than the projected revenues.”

Controller Jeff Underwood was on the conference call, so Hamilton was quick to clarify, “in case Jeff falls out of his chair” that the city has sufficient revenues plus reserves to pay for the budget.

Hamilton is proposing to spend $4 million of reserves, in order to maintain basic services and to pay for a collection of initiatives to stimulate the local economy that he is calling “Recover Forward.” The first phase of that set of initiatives was approved by Bloomington’s city council last Wednesday as a roughly $2 million appropriation. Continue reading “COVID-19 impact: 2021 budget previewed by Bloomington mayor shows more expenses than revenues”

$98.6 million proposed for Bloomington’s 2020 budget, includes 12 new positions

Bloomington’s city council isn’t scheduled to take a final vote on the adoption of Mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2020 budget until Oct. 10. Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

But next Monday, Hamilton will appear at 6 p.m. in front of the council to deliver a speech that presents the $98.6 million proposal.

In their four-day schedule of departmental hearings starting after Hamilton’s speech, the city council is expected to take straw votes on each department’s proposal. That will give Hamilton’s administration a chance to make some final tweaks before the budget is given a first reading in front of the council on Sept. 25.

The $98.6 million covers all of the city’s 15 departments except for three—City of Bloomington Utilities ($44 million), Bloomington Transit ($14 million), and Bloomington Housing Commission ($13 million). The 15-department total adds up to around $170 million.

The proposed core budget of $98.6 million for 2020 is the fourth annual budget that Hamilton has presented since he was elected in November 2015. It continues the trend of his first three proposed budgets—year-to-year increases averaging about 8 percent. This year’s $98.6 million budget is more than one-third (36 percent) bigger than the last one approved for his predecessor, Mark Kruzan, in 2016.

Of the four basic categories in the budget—personnel, supplies, other services, and capital outlays—the biggest difference between the proposed 2020 budget and the one adopted in 2016 is in capital outlays. The $8.6 million for capital outlays in 2020 is almost three and a half times the $2.5 million in 2016.

Last year, on the occasion of the budget presentation, Hamilton spoke for a half hour.

Based on a press briefing last Friday, one topic he’s likely to address this year, beyond the nuts and bolts of the proposed budget, is climate change and how it affects budgeting. Climate change “is going to be part of our planning forever,” Hamilton said.

After the jump, this piece will tick through: some nuts and bolts of the proposed 2020 budget; the budget process up to now; the week’s four-day city council schedule starting with Monday’s mayoral address. Continue reading “$98.6 million proposed for Bloomington’s 2020 budget, includes 12 new positions”