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”

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”

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”

Monroe County mulls $3 million in capital projects for yearly GO bond issuance, after concept gets kicked around in debate on local income tax increase

At last Tuesday’s meeting of Monroe County’s council, county board of commissioners president Julie Thomas presented a list of projects that could be funded using proceeds from a $3-million general obligation (GO) bond.

Introductory text of a past year’s ordinance used to authorize Monroe County’s issuance of general obligation bonds.

It’s a routine strategy for the county, each year to set property taxes at a high enough rate to generate enough revenue to cover the repayment of short-term general obligation bonds.

The list presented by Thomas for this year included: trucks and heavy equipment for the highway department; support vehicles for the highway department; parks ADA projects; replacement of core switches in the justice building; radios for sheriff’s office; handheld narcotics analyzer; county vehicle refresh; renovations related to office move by highway and surveyor; and trail connections.

On Tuesday, the list did not appear to generate any red flags for county councilors. Last year, commissioners proposed a $5-million bond that drew sharp enough scrutiny from councilor Marty Hawk that the list of projects was trimmed down to about $3.3 million. This year’s proposal will get more consideration in the next few weeks before a vote is taken.

The idea of issuing GO bonds to fund capital projects made its way into recent deliberations in front of the Bloomington city council, during its deliberations on a possible increase to the countywide local income tax (LIT). The council’s vote was 4–5, so the proposal did not achieve even the simply majority to move it forward for consideration by the rest of the tax council. Continue reading “Monroe County mulls $3 million in capital projects for yearly GO bond issuance, after concept gets kicked around in debate on local income tax increase”

Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment

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A joint work session of Monroe County’s board of commissioners and county council was held Friday in the conference room off the county council’s office suite. At the head of the table is  county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a joint work session held Friday afternoon by Monroe County commissioners and councilors, the elected officials got a rundown of itemized cost estimates for projects to be funded with a $5-million general obligation (GO) bond.

The gathering grew out of some frustration on the part of councilors, expressed on Sept. 10, when the three-member board of commissioners first presented the proposed $5.17 million bond issuance to the council. On that occasion, councilors wanted to see the kind of detail they eventually got, on Friday.

County attorney Margie Rice told the group on Friday that she sensed some dissatisfaction from councilors with the earlier presentation—that’s why the extra session on Friday was convened. Rice told the councilors she’d never before seen this level of detail given to a county council for a bond issuance.

The detailed breakdown allowed the council to identify several items, adding up to $559,080, that they wanted to pull out of the bond proposal, and pay instead out of cash reserves or other funds. To be pulled off the list of bond projects were: renovating the Alexander Monument ($153,000); running fiber to the data center ($100,000); paving of a seating area on the courthouse grounds ($60,000); installing HVAC fans for the justice center ($50,000); and sealing the parking garage deck ($50,000), among other items.

Not a surprise was the idea of paying for the Alexander Monument using a source other than the bonds. Councilor Marty Hawk had advocated for that on Sept. 10, when she said that the county had enough cash to pay for the restoration of the veterans memorial. Hawk also objected at that time to the amount of the bond, which was $5.17 million. It was a change to state law that allows the county to bond for $5 million, plus a growth quotient, instead of just the $2 million worth of GO bonds the county has issued in years past.

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From left: County councilors Kate Wiltz, Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim, Marty Hawk, and county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Based on the discussion on Friday, the county council will be weighing whether to go ahead and bond for the roughly $5 million, or to ratchet the amount down to $3 million. Bonding for $3 million, according to the board of commissioners administrator Angie Purdie, would not increase tax rates. Bonding for $5 million would mean an extra $27.66 in property taxes paid by the owner of a house with a value of $200,000.

Among the items that’s still proposed to be paid out of the GO bond is election equipment costing around $1 million. County attorney Jeff Cockerill announced to the group on Friday that an RFP (request for proposals) would be made for the election equipment. Prospective vendors will be asked to appear in Monroe County on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. to demonstrate their wares, Cockerill said. That comes after Monroe County’s election board appeared to have already recommended a choice of vendor, Hart Intercivic.

Continue reading “Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment”

Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?

A presentation from Monroe County’s three commissioners to the seven-member county council on Tuesday night listed out a dozen and a half projects they want to pay for with one-year general obligation (GO) bonds. The not-to-exceed amount that the commissioners want the county council to authorize is $5.17 million.

Adding up the cost of the individual projects might come to that total, but councilors weren’t provided that information by commissioners on Tuesday. And they expressed their wish to have that information before voting on the bonds.

The list of items includes: propane conversions for vehicles in the county fleet; sealing of a parking garage top deck; purchase of some land that was declared a Superfund site by the EPA in the 1980s; refurbishment of the Alexander Memorial; voting equipment that will be deployed in the 2020 spring primaries; and a raft of other items.

One way to arrive at the $5.17 million figure is to check the statutory limit for the maximum allowable bond issuance, above which the proposal becomes what the state legislature calls a “controlled project.” This year that limit matches the amount the commissioners want the county to bond for: $5.17 million—any higher and the bond issuance would be subject to remonstrance and potential referendum.

The GO bonds were just up for a first reading Tuesday night. The vote will come at the county council’s next regular meeting, which is set for Oct. 8. That gives the councilors some time get the kind of cost details they are looking for.

During the meeting, the council’s president, Shelli Yoder, put together an ad hoc committee to look at paying cash for a few items instead of bonding for them.

Marty Hawk summed up her lack up of support for the bond by pointing to the amount, which is more than twice as much as the amount for which the county has bonded in past years: “I just think it’s over the top.”

Besides the ad hoc committee, another outcome of the back-and-forth between the council and commissioners was scheduling a special work session, before the Sept. 24 session already on the council’s schedule, for the 10 elected officials to talk about the projects on the list.

Continue reading “Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?”