Bloomington area budget prep: Income tax revenues for 2023 projected up 13%, property tax levy up 5%

Indiana’s state budget agency has released its estimated county-by-county local income tax (LIT) distributions for 2023, which are numbers local governmental units will use for 2023 budget planning.

For the certified shares category, Monroe County (across all government units) is projected to see about a 13-percent increase—from $34,232,607 in 2022 to $38,815,238 in 2023.

That news comes shortly after the maximum levy growth quotient for property tax revenue was announced for the 2023 budget year: 5 percent.  That’s the biggest percentage increase since at least as far back as 2003. Continue reading “Bloomington area budget prep: Income tax revenues for 2023 projected up 13%, property tax levy up 5%”

BT Roundup: mid-June for Uber/Lyft night runs, new bus routes in August, strategic plan contract OK’d, 8 new electric buses requested, still 14 drivers short

Bloomington Transit (BT) is confronting several short-term challenges even as it looks ahead to a future flush with new revenue.

The new revenue will come from the city of Bloomington’s planned allocation to BT using some of extra money from the local income tax increase that was enacted by the city council two weeks ago.

The range of short- and long-term issues was evident at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the BT board.
Continue reading “BT Roundup: mid-June for Uber/Lyft night runs, new bus routes in August, strategic plan contract OK’d, 8 new electric buses requested, still 14 drivers short”

Analysis: Does a local law need to change so a Bloomington public bus can run outside the city?

Map showing bus routes going outside of Bloomington city limits
Excerpt of map showing configuration of routes recommended by Bloomington Transit consultant in 2019.

If Bloomington Transit wanted to run buses outside of Bloomington’s city limits, what, if any, legal requirements would have to be met?

Specifically, what legal requirements would have to be met, in order for Bloomington Transit to serve educational and employment centers like Ivy Tech or Cook Medical—which are outside the city limits on the western edge of town?

In the last few years, the standard answer has been: An amendment to a local law  would have to be enacted by the city council.

But a closer look at the local law, and a state statute, suggests that a change to the local law might not be needed.

Instead, the city council would just have to approve any proposed bus service outside the city’s boundaries.

A request from BT to run buses to specific locations outside city limits could presumably be placed on the city council’s agenda by BT—just like approval of its annual budget and tax rate is placed on the city council’s agenda. BT could not force the city council to grant approval.

But that stands in contrast to an ordinance that would change city code. BT does not have the right to place a proposed change to city code on the city council’s agenda, much less force the council to enact it.

Why is this legal issue about the geography of BT’s service area somewhat pressing? Continue reading “Analysis: Does a local law need to change so a Bloomington public bus can run outside the city?”

Local income tax increase: Decision delayed by Bloomington city council to May 4

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council voted 8–0 to postpone consideration of a countywide local income tax increase until its next regular meeting, which is scheduled for May 4.

The vote to postpone came a few minutes after 9 p.m. That made for a meeting that lasted about two and a half hours. Councilmembers asked questions of the mayor and staff, heard another round of public commentary, and discussed the proposal among themselves.

It’s the city council’s second postponement of the LIT rate increase in as many weeks. The likely delay in the vote this week was announced by council president Susan Sandberg at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. Continue reading “Local income tax increase: Decision delayed by Bloomington city council to May 4”

Electronic meetings statute stops vote on $5.8M bond issuance by Bloomington parks board

The final approval of $5.8-million in general obligation bonds appeared on Tuesday’s agenda for Bloomington’s board of park commissioners.

view of city council chambers with two park commissioners seated at dais with numeral "1" and "2" labeling them and a third park commission appearing on screen.
Tues. April 26, 2022 meeting of Bloomington’s board of park commissioners. Two were present in-person. One was present on the Zoom platform.

It did not get a vote, because only two of the four park commissioners were attending the meeting in person.

A special meeting will be scheduled so that a vote can be taken.

A third commissioner attended Tuesday’s meeting by using the Zoom video-conferencing platform—which allowed the board to achieve its quorum of three members to transact other items on its agenda.

Under Indiana’s Open Door Law (ODL), an attendee who participates by electronic communication counts towards satisfying a quorum.

And under ordinary circumstances a remote attendee’s votes count towards whatever majority is needed for a particular item to be approved.

But under the ODL, there are some circumstances that preclude a member’s participation in a meeting using electronic communication. Among them are meetings when the governing body is taking final action to “establish, raise, or renew a tax.”

Issuing general obligation bonds has the impact of raising property taxes. Continue reading “Electronic meetings statute stops vote on $5.8M bond issuance by Bloomington parks board”

Analysis: Bloomington city council to take up local income tax increase again this Wednesday

The sole item on this Wednesday’s special meeting of the Bloomington city council is a proposal to increase the countywide income tax by 0.855 points, which would bring Monroe County’s total rate to 2.2 percent.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton re-floated the idea of a local income tax increase at his “state of the city” address this February. It was an idea he had unsuccessfully pitched in 2020. The mayor gave details of this year’s proposal in early April.

If the city council approves a 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 from the Bloomington city council, then the proposal would need to pick up some support from county councilors and/or members of the Ellettsville town council. Continue reading “Analysis: Bloomington city council to take up local income tax increase again this Wednesday”

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”

Bloomington Transit set for Uber/Lyft pilot in May, to send city council memo on local income tax increase

On Tuesday night, the five-member Bloomington Transit (BT) board voted unanimously to go ahead with a pilot program starting in early May that will use Uber or Lyft—with a subsidy for the rides taken under BT’s banner—to replace late night service on some existing routes.

The board also discussed a proposal by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to increase the local income tax paid by all Monroe County residents and to use some of Bloomington’s share of the additional revenue to fund new BT transportation initiatives.

The tax package includes around $5 million in public transportation projects, including a new east-west route with 15-minute frequency.

Board members expressed concern that the funding for the kind of transportation proposals described in the tax package would require some kind of long-term commitment by the city of Bloomington to BT. A memo with that message is supposed to be forwarded to the city council before Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

On Wednesday (April 20), the city council could take a final vote on the 0.855-point tax increase, which would raise the overall local income tax to a total of 2.2 percent.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, BT announced that masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus would no longer be required on BT buses. That was the same approach that most transit providers seem to have taken after a federal judge struck down US President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring mask wearing. [text of US District Court Middle District of Florida ruling] Continue reading “Bloomington Transit set for Uber/Lyft pilot in May, to send city council memo on local income tax increase”

Opinion: Local income tax increase, a way to heal rift between Bloomington, other stakeholders?

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council could take a final vote that would enact an increase to the local income tax (LIT) that is paid by all residents of Monroe County, whether they live inside the city limits or not.

two stacked bars side by side. Components of the layers are the different categories of LIT. The total height of the left bar is 1.345 which is the current rate. Adding in 0.855 of economic development category makes the right bar 2.2 high.
This article looks at the impact of enacting an additional 0.855 points in the certified shares (green) category of local income tax, instead of enacting the increase in the economic development category (lilac).

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has proposed an increase of 0.855 points, which would make the total rate 2.2 percent. For county residents who pay the tax, it would mean an extra $85 dollars paid on every $10,000 of taxable income.

At the city council’s Wednesday night corral, there’s the possibility of some political horse trading, based on the amount of increase to the rate. The horse trading could even lead to a delay in the final vote for at least another week.

At-large council representative Matt Flaherty said at last week’s meeting he would support the rate as proposed by the mayor. But he added, “In working to meet my colleagues somewhere in the middle, at the very least, I think I can come down to 0.65, and find a balance of what I think is most essential.”

The balance to be struck in the package proposed by Hamilton is between public safety and essential services on the one hand, and climate change mitigation and quality of life on the other.

The focus of the council’s consideration now appears to be just the rate, and how much revenue it would mean for the city of Bloomington.

I think it’s wrong to make that the sole focus of deliberations.

It’s wrong for at least two connected reasons. Continue reading “Opinion: Local income tax increase, a way to heal rift between Bloomington, other stakeholders?”

Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method

Community  discussion of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed increase to the countywide local income tax (LIT) has not included much mention of category of LIT called the “certified shares” category.

two stacked bars side by side. Components of the layers are the different categories of LIT. The total height of the left bar is 1.345 which is the current rate. Adding in 0.855 of economic development category makes the right bar 2.2 high.
This article looks at the impact of enacting an additional 0.855 points in the certified shares (green) category of local income tax, instead of enacting the increase in the economic development category (lilac).

But the certified shares category makes up the biggest part of the current countywide local income tax rate.  It’s the green chunk of the bars in the chart that accompanies this article.

The certified shares category has a current rate of 0.9482 percent.

For Monroe County, the total current LIT rate is 1.345 percent, which comes from adding an additional 0.25 points in the public safety category, 0.0518 points in the property tax relief category, and another 0.0950 points in a special purpose category. The special purpose LIT revenues are used for juvenile services.

It’s the certified shares category of LIT that many other units of local government rely on for some of their basic operating expenses.

Among those units are all the townships, the Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington Transit, and the Monroe Fire Protection District. Continue reading “Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method”