At just a smidgen over $15 million, Bloomington Transit’s preliminary budget for 2022 is about 3.7 percent more than last year’s approved total amount.
That’s the number that Bloomington Transit’s general manager Lew May presented to BT’s five-member board at its meeting last Tuesday.
Some of that increase is due to an increase in employee compensation. The preliminary budget is based on a 3-percent increase in wages. How much the increase actually turns out to be will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the drivers, who are represented by AFSCME Local 613.
Those negotiations will need to take place over the next few months, because BT’s labor agreement ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
The timing for the back-and-forth between BT and drivers will coincide broadly with BT’s transition from May’s leadership, who has served 22 years as general manager, to John Connell’s, who was the board’s pick last week to succeed May. Connell is now operations manager for the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation.
BT’s board will likely vote on the final budget at its August meeting. The budget will then be presented to Bloomington’s city council for review and approval, in a separate vote from the city’s own budget.
Eleven new Bloomington firefighters sworn in on July 23, 2021.
James Brown III takes oath administered by city clerk Nicole Bolden.
Robert Morgan, Jr. takes oath administered by city clerk Nicole Bolden.
Deon Walton, takes oath administered by city clerk Nicole Bolden.
View of the temporary downtown Bloomington fire station looking west from College Avenue.
A view from the north on 4th Street of the temporary location for Station 1 of the Bloomington fire department.
Map of Bloomington fire station locations.
On Friday afternoon at the bottom of the grassy landscaped tiers in front Bloomington’s city hall, Devin Owens tore open an envelope and read aloud the contents: “Probationary firefighter Owens. I am assigned to Black Shift Station 1.”
The announcement earned a round of applause from a gathering of about 60 people.
The ritual reading aloud of station assignments by Owens and 10 other new firefighters came after they were sworn in by city clerk Nicole Bolden.
Fire chief Jason Moore, deputy chief Jayme Washel, battalion chief for training Tania Daffron, and a couple of dozen other firefighters attended the ceremony, as did Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, deputy mayor Don Griffin and several other city staff.
At 11 members, it’s the largest and most diverse recruiting class ever, Moore told The B Square.
For a firefighter first class, the agreement calls for a 1-percent raise in 2021 to $54,625 in base pay. A 2-percent raise each year after that, through 2024, brings a firefighter’s base pay to $57,969.
According to a memo from the city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, the city will be compensating firefighters by a total of about $2 million more, over the four-year term of the contract.
At the city council’s public safety committee review of the contract on Dec. 9, one concern raised by councilmember Jim Sims was about the diversity of the fire department. Fire chief Jason Moore reported a current department profile of about 5 percent women, and between 3 to 4 percent Black and or people of color.
Moore said that the department is working to recruit a more diverse pool of applicants, in part by supporting the Hoosier Hills Career Center in the Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Ivy Tech fire science program.
On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.
The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.
The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.
A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.
Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.
Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.
They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.
Councilmembers Dave Rollo (foreground) and Isabel Piedmont-Smith (to Rollo’s left) were among the climate strikers who filled city hall last Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
An officer from Bloomington Police department is assigned for duty at city council meetings. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
At a special meeting held on Wednesday night, the Bloomington city council got a formal first reading of the half dozen ordinances that make up the 2020 budget, proposed by Mayor John Hamilton’s administration.
At their committee-of-the whole meeting, which followed on the heels of the special meeting, the council took a series of non-binding straw votes on the ordinances.
The outcome of those straw votes formed a record of their discontent.
They’re disappointed that the city and the police union have not yet reached an agreement after more than 18 months of negotiation, and they’re frustrated by the sheer volume of conflicting information about staffing levels, morale, recruitment and retention that they’ve heard from the police union and administration.
They’re also disappointed that the mayor declined to add a top-level position to manage the city’s response to climate change.
Bloomington city councilmembers listen as members of the police union talk about recruiting and retention in the department. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Jeff Rodgers, who represents the detective division in the collective bargaining process has put in 13 years with the department. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
More than four dozen Bloomington police and their family members filled the city council’s chambers Wednesday night. They were there to support members of their collective bargaining team, who addressed the local lawmakers at their regular meeting on the topic of better pay.
The police department’s budget for next year was not on the city council’s agenda for Wednesday.
Still, the show of interest from the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) fit into a general timeframe of budget decisions for 2020. The city council will vote in early October on the budget after getting the final proposal on Sept. 25.
A city council chamber filled with police officers also fit the context of current collective bargain negotiations between the police union and the city. Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88, told councilmembers on Wednesday that the 18-month long negotiations had reached a point when the city’s negotiating team declared an impasse and mediator was brought in.
The result of the mediation process, Post said, had produced a written proposal from the city’s team. Post delivered bad news. “Unfortunately, that proposal was not enough,” Post told councilmembers, adding that it was voted down by union membership, because, “it did not adequately meet the financial needs, nor was it designed to meet the recruiting and retention needs so many of you have recently pointed out.”