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.
Two agenda items appear for a second reading and final vote on the Bloomington’s city council’s agenda for Wednesday.
One is an appropriation ordinance for Bloomington Transit buses—BT won some competitive federal grants totaling $900,000. That makes the ordinance amount about $1.13 million because of the 20-percent local share that BT will need to contribute towards the cost of the three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service. The fixed-route service bus is a battery electric bus. All three buses are replacement vehicles, not part of a fleet expansion. [Previous Beacon coverage: 12]
The second agenda item is one piece of the approvals the city council will need to make for the allocation of public safety local income tax funds. The income tax rate of 0.25 percent is estimated to generate about $8.65 million countywide. On Wednesday, the council will be asked to approve $389,461 worth of funding from that tax revenue—it’s the portion that goes to “qualified service providers.” In practical terms, that means the money will go to a half dozen different fire departments in the county.
Chart of Bloomington Transit budget breakdown for the last eight years, and next year’s proposed 20202 budget.
Lew May, Bloomington Transit’s general manager. On Aug. 20, May presented his 21st budget to Bloomington’s city council. “It’s been a great ride at Bloomington Transit.” (Dave Askins/Beaon)
Possible federal grants are a key part of the Bloomington Transit 2020 budget presented to the city council on Tuesday by the public transit agency’s general manager, Lew May. Councilmembers appeared receptive to the planned $4 million in capital expenditures to acquire four more alternative-fuel buses.
BT is also applying for a federal grant to fund a shared-ride microtransit pilot program to take up the slack on certain routes after fixed-route service ends for the day.
Council president Dave Rollo suggested looking beyond traditional federal funding sources. Among the local funding sources he suggested were tax increment finance funds and local income taxes.
A budget increase of $87,000 to cover an outside contract to add a security officer at BT’s downtown transit station drew scrutiny from councilmembers.
As it did on Monday, which was the first day of a week’s worth of departmental budget hearings, climate change drove a lot of the council’s commentary. Councilmembers wanted BT to consider adding solar panels to a new roof for the BT facility on Grimes Lane, which is currently budgeted for $363,250.
Before the unanimous straw vote was taken by councilmembers in support of the proposed budget, Dave Rollo said, “We are running out of time. And we need to direct capital to Bloomington Transit, if we’re going to be serious about climate—it’s got to be part of the strategy.”
The council’s vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 10 after getting a first reading on Sept. 25.
A total of $902,401 in competitive federal grants recently won by Bloomington Transit (BT) will allow the local public transit agency to buy three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service.
All the buses are replacement vehicles, part of a regular program to keep the fleet up to date.
The new fixed-route bus will be a battery-electric vehicle, one of two that Bloomington Transit is now planning to order. The first battery-electric bus was already in the 2019 budget.
The electric buses are expected to arrive in late 2020 or early 2021.
A press release issued by the city about the federal grant awards touted the benefits of electric buses. They include: cost-effectiveness; zero direct carbon emissions; reduction in dependency on fossil fuels; and quietness of operation.