Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds

On Monday afternoon, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners convened a special meeting to approve $5.8 million in parks general obligation bonds, to pay for some multi-use trail and protected bicycle lane projects.

The bonds were a part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s new revenue package, which was recently approved by the city council. The whole package included another $5.8 million in public works bonds,  and a 0.69-point increase in the countywide local income tax, which is expected to generate about $14.5 million annually for the city of Bloomington.

The bond projects approved by the board of park commissioners on Monday included: replacement of missing sidewalk on Rogers St. by Switchyard Park; addition of protected bicycle lanes along Covenanter Drive (from College Mall to Clarizz Blvd); construction design for a North Dunn Street multi-use path (from the SR 45/46 Bypass to Old SR 37); the Griffy Loop Trail dam crossing and community access\ improvements; and modernization of West 2nd Street modernization, including protected bicycle lanes (from Walker Street to BLine trail).

No one spoke during the public commentary period at Monday’s meeting.

Given initial approval by park commissioners in April were two bond projects that the city council later struck from the list: replacement of gas-powered equipment with electric equipment; and a non-motorized connection from Lower Cascades Park to Miller-Showers Park.

So those two projects were not among those approved on Monday by the board of park commissioners.

The final approval of the bonds was previously on the agenda for a late-April meeting of the park commissioners. But they could not take a vote on the item. That’s because under Indiana’s Open Door Law, all members who are voting on a tax increase have to be physically present—not participating through electronic communication. Only two of the four park commissioners were physically present at the late April meeting.

That’s why a special meeting of the park commissioners had to be called. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds”

Local income tax increase postponed by Bloomington city council until April 27, but $11.6M in bonds OK’d

Bloomington’s city council has postponed its decision on an increase to Monroe County’s local income tax (LIT) rate.

On Wednesday, the vote on the motion to postpone was 8–1 with Steve Volan dissenting. The council will take up the matter again a week from Wednesday, at a special session on April 27.

Volan’s vote against postponement was not based on a desire to take a final vote on the LIT increase that night. Volan wanted some additional deliberation by the council on the question before postponement. The vote to postpone was taken at 10:52 p.m. almost four and a half hours after the meeting started, at 6:30 p.m.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has asked the council to consider an increase of 0.855 points, bringing Monroe County’s total rate to 2.2 percent.

If the city council approves the LIT rate increase by a vote of at least 8–1, that will increase the tax for all residents of Monroe County. If the approval gets fewer than eight votes of support, then the proposal would need to pick up some support from the county council and/or the Ellettsville town board.

Even though councilmembers did not take a vote on the LIT increase, they did approve the issuances of two $5.8 million general obligation bonds—one for a set of public works projects and the other for a set of parks projects. The board of park commissioners is set to take a final vote on the parks bonds on April 26. Continue reading “Local income tax increase postponed by Bloomington city council until April 27, but $11.6M in bonds OK’d”

Wednesday’s city council committee meeting could mark the start of local income tax negotiations

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposal to increase the countywide local income tax (LIT) by 0.855 points, to a total of 2.2 percent, appears on the agenda for the city council’s Wednesday night committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Other revenue items on the agenda include two $5-million bond proposals—one for parks bonds and the other for public works bonds. [Updated at 4:34 on April 13, 2022: Two amendments to the list of projects to be funded by the bonds were posted by the city council office. Here’s a  link: 2022-04-13 meeting packet addendum.]

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is a nominal decrease to the drinking water rate, driven by the General Assembly’s repeal of the 1.4-percent utility receipts tax. It was ​​a pass-through tax, which means it was collected by utilities and forwarded to the state. For the residential rate, the decrease is 5 cents—from $4.03 to $3.98 per 1,000 gallons. That works out to 1.2 percent less.

No final votes will be taken on Wednesday night at the committee meeting. But it is the city council’s custom to take straw polls. That should give some indication of how councilmembers are leaning toward the proposed income tax increase. Abstentions are generally used as a mechanism to show moderate disapproval.

A final vote on a local income tax (LIT) increase by the city council could be taken as soon as next Wednesday (April 20). Continue reading “Wednesday’s city council committee meeting could mark the start of local income tax negotiations”

Bloomington mayor pitches 64% increase in Monroe County’s local income tax

In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon ahead of the city council’s evening meeting, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton put a specific number on the local income tax (LIT) rate increase he has been talking about for the last several weeks.

What Hamilton is proposing is an increase from 1.345 percent to 2.200 percent. That’s 0.855 points, or about a 64-percent increase to the current rate.

Based on the current public safety local income tax rate, which is 0.25 percent, and the state’s certified local income tax distributions for 2022, just a quarter-point LIT increase would generate a total of $9,025,682 a year countywide.

For a full point increase, that translates into $36.1 million in revenue countywide. That figure, multiplied by Hamilton’s proposed 0.855 increase, means about $30.87 million.

Based on the proportional population distribution method proposed by Hamilton, Bloomington’s share would be about $17.5 million. Monroe County government’s share would be about $11.9 million, with the remainder going to Ellettsville and Stinesville.

Continue reading “Bloomington mayor pitches 64% increase in Monroe County’s local income tax”

Bloomington park commissioners give initial OK to issue $5.8M in bonds for transportation projects

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners kicked off a process to issue $5.8 million worth of bonds to fund several projects.

map of the city of Bloomington with green highlights showing proposed bond projects
The dotted line for the Dunn Street project indicates the portion of the proposed path that has challenging terrain. The rest is relatively flat.

Most of them are non-motorized transportation projects. The one clear exception is a $25,000 project to replace gasoline-powered with electric-powered equipment.

At Wednesday’s meeting, director of park operations Tim Street gave some examples of the type of hand-held equipment that could be replaced: weed eaters; mowers; backpack blowers; hedge trimmers; and chainsaws.

Street also said the department is looking to buy some battery-powered riding lawn mowers and to test them out by giving them heavy use.

The parks bonds are half of a general obligation bond package that Bloomington mayor John Hamilton unveiled two weeks ago, along with $17 million worth of projects that could be funded with a local income tax increase.

The resolution adopted by the park commissioners includes the projects in Exhibit A. About those projects, the resolution states: “The Board preliminarily finds that it is necessary for the public health and welfare and will be of public utility and benefit to proceed with the Projects.”

Final approval by the board of park commissioners is expected on April 26. That’s when Wednesday’s resolution says a public hearing will take place.

Between now and April 26, the parks bonds are supposed to be introduced at the city council’s April 6 meeting, discussed at the city council’s April 13 committee meeting and voted up or down on April 20. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners give initial OK to issue $5.8M in bonds for transportation projects”

Proposed local income tax increase for Monroe County residents, tax bump for Bloomington property owners: Some details emerge

In a memo released Thursday afternoon, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton announced some details about an anticipated local income tax (LIT) increase for Monroe County.

Bloomington’s city council will be asked to enact a tax increase as soon as one month from now.

Also getting some additional detail was the issuance of $10 million in general obligation (GO) bonds that the council will be asked to approve. Issuing GO bonds will bump Bloomington’s property tax rate.

Several documents released on Thursday, and posted on a separate page on the city’s website, include a breakdown for potentially $17 million in additional annual spending by the city of Bloomington, based on additional local income tax revenues.

The broad categories of possible increased LIT spending are: climate change ($6.35 million); essential services ($2.5 million); public safety ($4.5 million); and quality of life ($3.65 million).

Under the climate change category, the biggest part ($4.85 million) could go towards public transit.

[Google Sheet compiled by The B Square]

Continue reading “Proposed local income tax increase for Monroe County residents, tax bump for Bloomington property owners: Some details emerge”

2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s roughly $107 million budget for 2022 was approved on a unanimous vote of the city council.

Two weeks ago some city councilmembers had threatened to vote against it.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers had recessed their meeting until this Wednesday.

Approval of next year’s budget came five days ahead of a statutory deadline, which makes Nov. 1 the last day it can be adopted.

Under state law, if the deadline for adoption had been missed, Bloomington would have had to get through 2022 with the same tax rate and levy as specified in the 2021 budget. That would have meant $1.2 million less in general fund revenue than was called for in Hamilton’s 2022 budget.

Hamilton’s 2022 budget fell short of councilmember expectations in two areas—police pay and climate action.

But in remarks explaining their support for the budget, councilmembers pointed to some positive movement on Hamilton’s part that they discerned in the administration’s news release from the day before. Continue reading “2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote”

$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week

In a news release issued early Tuesday afternoon, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has made a pitch to the city council to adopt his proposed 2022 budget.

B Square file photo. City council president Jim Sims (left) and Bloomington mayor John Hamilton chat before the celebration of the fire department’s top ISO rating at Switchyard Park on Oct. 15, 2021.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers recessed the meeting until this Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Tuesday’s news release raises two topics that have been sources of discord between the mayor and different groups of councilmembers: police pay and climate action.

Based on Tuesday’s news release, it appears that there might be a little bit of movement on the question of police pay.

But the news release does not describe any inclination to reopen the current collective bargaining agreement with the police union, one year ahead of the normal cycle. That had been the specific request from the council.

On the climate front, there’s a proposal in Tuesday’s release to issue $10 million in bonds next year—half through the general fund and half through parks—to undertake various climate initiatives. The pair of $5-million bond issuances might be repeated in five-year increments, according to Tuesday’s new release.

The news release also describes an additional staff position within the economic and sustainability department. But there’s no announcement of a position at the level of a climate action director, as some councilmembers want. Continue reading “$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week”

Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch

A pedestrian connection between the intersection of Country Club Drive and Rogers Street, heading southward towards the new library branch, is part of the list of capital projects to be funded with a $3.1-million bond issuance from Monroe County.

The bond issuance was given approval by the Monroe County council at its Tuesday meeting. The county commissioners had signed off on the bonds six weeks earlier, on Sept. 1.

The annual issuance of bonds, to pay for a collection of capital projects, is an approach that the county government has taken for the last few years.

Besides $250,000 for the Rogers corridor sidewalk project, which will start with design work, this year’s list of bond projects includes: Phase 2 health building renovation; virtual cluster upgrade; non-law-enforcement vehicles; solar infrastructure; a vacuum truck; a mini excavator; a grader; a low boy; trail connections; and park renovations. Continue reading “Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch”

Monroe County gets GO bonds OK’d before expected pre-election news of rebounding economy

At its meeting last Tuesday, the Monroe County council handled two $3-million items.

One was a transfer of $3 million to its rainy day fund. The other was a final approval on issuance of $3.1 million in general obligation bonds. The amount includes $3 million worth of capital projects and another $100,000 to cover transaction costs.

Those items will now provide some of the background for the county council’s first reading of the 2021 budget, on Monday starting at 5:30 p.m.

The rainy day fund transfers came in the context of a negative impact to local income tax revenue that’s expected in 2022. In that year, revenue will be based on individual earnings in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The timing of the bond issuance came before the general election in a presidential year and before Thanksgiving—two events that can affect bond ratings, according to county attorney Jeff Cockerill. Continue reading “Monroe County gets GO bonds OK’d before expected pre-election news of rebounding economy”