Interim compromise on Bloomington city clerk’s salary: $87K not $104K

No final decision was made on Wednesday night, but Bloomington’s city council took a clear step towards giving the position of elected city clerk a big salary boost.

On a 7–2 vote, the council passed a resolution indicating its intent to set the clerk’s salary for 2024 at $87,000 . That would be a 34-percent increase over the $64,773 that the job pays this year.

Dissenting were Steve Volan and Kate Rosenbarger, who supported a higher figure of $104,089. The bigger number was in the original draft of the resolution put forward by Matt Flaherty.

Flaherty and Isabel Piedmont-Smith joined Volan and Rosenbarger in voting against an amendment put forward by Dave Rollo and Sue Sgambelluri, which decreased the amount to $87,000.

Unlike Volan and Rosenbarger, Flaherty and Piedmont-Smith were willing to support the compromise figure.

As Flaherty put it, “I can’t really support…the amendment—though, of course, if it passes, would support the resolution as a whole.” He added, “As a step forward, it’s better than nothing.”

Bloomington’s city clerk is Nicole Bolden, who is seeking re-election to her third four-year term this year. She is unopposed on this year’s Nov. 7 ballot, as she was in the Democratic Party’s primary. That’s the same pattern as in 2019 and 2015.

Bolden spoke on Wednesday night in support of the salary increase for the clerk’s position, noting the awkwardness of doing so. Continue reading “Interim compromise on Bloomington city clerk’s salary: $87K not $104K”

Bloomington city council to consider resolution on proposed $104K salary for city clerk

Cued up on the Bloomington city council’s meeting agenda for Wednesday (Sept. 6),  is one item for a final vote.

It’s a resolution that expresses the council’s intent to set the elected city clerk’s salary for 2024 at $104,089, which would be a significant increase.

For 2023 the clerk’s compensation is $64,773.

Incumbent clerk Nicole Bolden is this year seeking reelection to her third four-year term. Bolden appears on the Nov. 7 ballot as the Democratic Party’s nominee. She is unopposed.

Wednesday’s resolution requests that Bloomington mayor John Hamilton accommodate the bigger amount into the final budget appropriations that he eventually submits to the council on Sept. 27.  The final budget is set for an adoption vote on Oct. 11.

Also appearing on the Sept. 6 agenda is an ordinance that regulates obstructions of the public right-of-way.  The ordinance about the right-of-way is up just for a first reading on Wednesday, which means it will not get any discussion by the city council.

It’s the ordinance that the board of public works recommended in mid-August  that the city council adopt, in response to complaints about unhoused people blocking sidewalks with their belongings. The ordinance regulating obstructions of the right-of-way could get a vote the following week, at the council’s Sept. 13 meeting.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council to consider resolution on proposed $104K salary for city clerk”

Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats

Thursday night marked the final round of departmental budget hearings for Bloomington’s city council.

Mayor John Hamilton was present in person to hear calls from several councilmembers to add security enhancements to the city council chambers.

That would likely mean adding money to the proposed 2024 budget for the facilities maintenance division of the public works department.

Responding to councilmember questions after his presentation on the facilities budget, public works director Adam Wason indicated that there were no security improvements for the council chambers in the 2024 spending plan.

The topic of hardening the council chambers got some public discussion at a budget advance meeting last year. But based on comments from councilmembers on Thursday, concerns about security for the council’s meeting space have a years-long history.

So it has become a sore point.

Asked about the topic by the B Square after Thursday’s meeting, Hamilton said the administration is always focused on public safety, for everyone, including city councilmembers.

As for what specifically the administration has done to add to the security of council chambers, Hamilton indicated that the administration does not publicize specific security measures, “We’ve been talking about it, and we’ve taken steps, and we don’t talk about those steps.”

As far as adding physical infrastructure in the council chambers, Hamilton said that between now and when the budget is finalized, “there’s room for discussion.” Continue reading “Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats”

Councilmembers talk salary boost for Bloomington clerk, council admin, and council itself

On the first night of Bloomington’s 2024 departmental budget hearings, Bloomington’s elected city clerk Nicole Bolden opened her presentation like this: “I’m going to start with the very big elephant in the room: This is not the budget proposal that I wanted to make to the council this evening.”

Non-union employees in the city will see a 5-percent salary increase as a part of the proposed 2024 budget.

But Bolden wants the city clerk’s position  paid substantially more, not just 5-percent more than the $64,773 that is specified in a 2023 salary ordinance. That’s the salary ordinance that covers elected city officials—the clerk, city councilmembers and the mayor.

No final decisions were made Monday night.

After the discussion of the clerk’s salary came some deliberations on the proposed salary for the city council’s administrator/attorney, Stephen Lucas.

The council appears to have already convinced the mayor to include in the 2024 proposed budget a substantial increase in the council administrator/attorney salary. After the meeting, Lucas told The B Square his understanding was that the increase for his position is 10.6 percent.

That would put the compensation for his position at around $104,000 for 2024.

In the proposed 2024 budget, the salaries for city councilmembers were erroneously left without the planned 5-percent increase, which would have meant a raise to $21,153 for 2024. But based on deliberations on Monday night, some councilmembers are looking to consider a more substantial increase for the position of city council.

Councilmember Dave Rollo said that based the information he had looked at, Bloomington city councilmembers are compensated “very poorly…much lower than the lowest quartile of city councils.” Rollo wants Lucas to pull together information about compensation for city councils in other second-class cities in the Hoosier state. Continue reading “Councilmembers talk salary boost for Bloomington clerk, council admin, and council itself”

Bloomington mayor unveils $20M more in one-time spending on first night of budget hearings

On Monday, Bloomington’s city council held the week’s first night of departmental budget hearings.

Three more nights of hearings are set to follow on successive days.

One piece of big news about the spending plan for 2024 came from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s introductory remarks.

To a basic budget of $131 million, which was released late last Friday, Hamilton wants to add $20 million in one-time spending, using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds and former CRED (Community Revitalization Enhancement District) money.

The money is supposed to be spent on five broad categories of items: infrastructure; housing; jobs and climate; diversity, equity and inclusion; and public health. Continue reading “Bloomington mayor unveils $20M more in one-time spending on first night of budget hearings”

Meeting on site selection for new Monroe County jail set for Aug. 29

On Tuesday, a big group of local government officials has been invited by Monroe County commissioners to a discussion about the future site of a new county jail.

The meeting, which will be convened in the Nat U. Hill Room of the county courthouse, is set to start at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting on the jail site location coincides with the second day of departmental budget hearings that are on the calendar for Bloomington’s city council.

Scheduled on Tuesday night for the city council, starting at 5:30 p.m., are Bloomington Transit, followed by the fire department, and the police department.

Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff, who will be presenting his department’s 2024 budget requests to the city council on Tuesday, has also been invited to the meeting about the jail site location.

Other invitees include: Ruben Marté (sheriff); Mary Ellen Diekhoff (circuit court presiding judge); Erika Oliphant (prosecutor); Jill Lees (IU police chief); Jimmie Durnil (Ellettsville town marshal); Paul Bucher (Indiana State Police district commander); John Hamilton (Bloomington mayor); Sue Sgambelluri (city council president); and the members of the Monroe County council. Continue reading “Meeting on site selection for new Monroe County jail set for Aug. 29”

Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs

At around 9:45 p.m. on Friday, the final proposed city budget of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s service was uploaded to the city’s website.

At about $131 million, it’s about 1.5 percent more than the budget approved by the city council for 2023.

That figure does not include the budgets for city of Bloomington utilities ($50 million) or for Bloomington Transit ($26.6 million). Adding in  those numbers would bring the overall total to about $208 million.

The 2024 budget includes a 5-percent pay increase for non-union employees.

Property tax revenues for 2024 will increase by 1 point less than the planned pay increase. That’s because the maximum levy growth quotient this year is 4 percent.

The revenue from local income taxes is estimated to increase by about 3.75 percent.

The B Square has counted a couple dozen additional positions that are described in the “budget book” that was released late Friday

The 387-page budget book is background to almost 7 hours worth of scheduled presentations from individual departments over the course of four nights this coming week. Continue reading “Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs”

Bloomington deer feeding ban starts Sept. 1

Starting on Sept. 1, Bloomington residents who feed deer could face a fine of $50.

Under the ordinance that was approved by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday night, if someone is found feeding deer a second time, within a year of the first offense, the fine doubles to $100.

And every subsequent offense within 12 months racks up a fine that doubles each time.

On Wednesday night, Bloomington animal shelter director Virgil Sauder said that enforcement of the ordinance would be based on reports his office receives about deer being fed.

The ordinance enacted by the city council on Wednesday includes some other amendments to the city code on animals, like revisions to the definition of a dangerous animal.

Under the ordinance, animal adoption fees were also increased. Currently, dogs and cats under five years are $75, and older than five years are $55. Under the new fee schedule, there are no age brackets—dogs and cats have an adoption fee of up to $120.

Sauder laid out for the council the reason for the ban. When deer are fed by people, they tend to congregate in larger numbers, where that feeding takes place. The larger groups of deer mean an increased risk of disease spread among deer. The food that people set out is also not a part of a deer’s natural diet, which can cause health concerns for the deer, Sauder said.

Sauder said the deer feeding ban relies on the work of a 2012 task force.

The ordinance was not controversial for councilmembers. It was approved on a 9–0 vote. Continue reading “Bloomington deer feeding ban starts Sept. 1”

Bloomington 2024 budget notebook: Tax revenue

On Aug. 28, about three weeks from now, Bloomington’s city council will start a four-day slog through presentations from department heads, about their proposed budgets for 2024.

In 2023, Bloomington’s budget totaled about $129 million—that’s not counting the budget for city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) or Bloomington Transit.

In the past couple of weeks, the tax revenue picture has come into clearer focus.

Property tax revenue will go up by exactly 4 percent. Local income tax revenue will go up by about 3.64 percent. Continue reading “Bloomington 2024 budget notebook: Tax revenue”

Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017

Released this week, results of a scientifically sampled survey of Bloomington residents show a marked downward trend for attitudes towards performance of city government.

Asked about their “overall confidence in city government,” just 32 percent  of respondents gave it an excellent or good rating in 2023, compared with 62 percent in 2017—a drop of 30 percentage points.

Results of the survey, which was conducted in March and April this year, were released by the city on Thursday.

Also dropping around 30 points in the 2023 survey, compared to the one done in 2017, were several other measures of local government performance, including: the value of services for the taxes paid to the city; generally acting in the best interest of the community; overall direction that the city is taking; being honest and transparent; treating all residents fairly; and listening to public concern.

That contrasts with the assessment of city staff by survey respondents, which shows an upward trend since 2021, after a drop from 2019 to 2021. That brings most measures of city staff performance back to a bit better than the levels that were measured in 2017.

As an example, the rating of respondents of the staff as “courteous” increased from 71 percent to 86 percent between 2021 and 2023—which is 2 points better than the 84 percent recorded in the 2017 survey.

The survey has been conducted every two years for the city of Bloomington by the same firm—Polco/National Research Center. That’s four surveys worth of data that can be tapped for trends. Continue reading “Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017”