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”

Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue

A two-person team from the Baker Tilly accounting firm, hired by Monroe County’s board of commissioners to review Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan, presented its report to the county council on Tuesday night.

Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.

Paige Sansone and Deen Rogers, the accountants from Baker Tilly who did the work for the county, noted a handful of other issues with Bloomington’s fiscal plan, none of which had a significant financial impact. Continue reading “Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue”

Joint meeting of Monroe County electeds to mull criminal justice report: “The jail facility is failing …”

“The jail facility is failing and cannot ensure consistent and sustainable provision of constitutional rights of incarcerated persons.”

Image links to .pdf of executive summary of RJS Justice Services report.

That’s one of several blunt assessments in a criminal justice and incarceration study dated June 20, 2021, which was released by Monroe County commissioners on Monday night. The study was conducted under contract by RJS Justice Services, with lead consultant Kenneth Ray.

Monroe County’s jail is located on the upper floors of the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at the northwest corner of 7th Street and College Avenue in downtown Bloomington. The building was constructed in 1985.

The report’s criticism of the jail facility is based on both its design and capacity. About the potential for the jail’s physical configuration to support the kind of programs that are needed, the report states: “The operational efficiency of facility design is non-detectable.”

About the adequacy of the current jail to house the number of inmates who are locked up there, the report says, “The daily inmate population exceeded the jail’s functional capacity on most days since 2004 and all days per year consecutively since 2015.” Continue reading “Joint meeting of Monroe County electeds to mull criminal justice report: “The jail facility is failing …””

Update on good trends for juvenile detention alternatives program heard by Monroe County council

At a Tuesday work session, Monroe County councilors took the necessary steps to ensure $55,000 in funding can be used to support programs that give youth some alternatives to detention.

The specific steps that were given a unanimous vote by the seven-member council involved the creation of some new account lines and additional appropriations. That’s the sort of thing that is the bread and butter of the council, which is the county’s fiscal body.

Councilors also got an update on statistics related to “secure detention,” which counts as one measure of how well the alternatives are working. The trend is in the right direction, which is downward. Continue reading “Update on good trends for juvenile detention alternatives program heard by Monroe County council”

Monroe County, Bloomington start with different angles on American Rescue Plan process

On Tuesday night, at separate meetings, Bloomington and Monroe County’s governments took their first step towards sorting through a spending plan for a local total of about $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The ARPA is a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, to help counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bloomington and Monroe County estimated shares of the ARPA are about $22.3 million and $28.8 million, respectively. Continue reading “Monroe County, Bloomington start with different angles on American Rescue Plan process”

Bloomington budget advance session swapped out for talk about American Rescue Plan, same time as separate county meeting

Historically, April’s annual “budget advance” for Bloomington’s city council has been an occasion when councilmembers sketch out their aspirations for the next budget year.

The idea is to try to influence the mayor’s budget proposal, which is presented in August.

Based on “city council” by Thomas Deckert from the Noun Project

This year’s budget advance was set for April 27 at 6 p.m., when the city council adopted its calendar for the year.

Now, instead of using that slot on the next week’s calendar for the budget advance, Bloomington’s city council will use the time to get an initial briefing from mayor Hamilton’s administration on the city’s estimated $22-million share of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) .

Also on Tuesday (April 27), the county council and the county commissioners are convening a joint work session about ARPA  funding. The county’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

The estimated Monroe County share of the total $1.9-trillion federal package is about $29 million.

The announcement about the change in topic for next Tuesday’s city council session came from council administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas towards the end of Wednesday’s regular city council meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington budget advance session swapped out for talk about American Rescue Plan, same time as separate county meeting”

County council OKs food and beverage tax proceeds for convention center debt

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Monroe County councilors approved a $300,000 appropriation of food and beverage tax revenue to help make debt payments in connection with the county’s convention center.

The debt covers renovations and land acquisition that have already been made. It’s not related to the planned future expansion of the center, which is still part of city and county plans—even if it has been on hold during the pandemic year.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s state of the city address, given on Feb. 25, mentioned the convention center expansion as a question: “What is the future for the convention center and its planned expansion?”

The money approved by the county council on Tuesday will cover a bit under two of the $159,000 quarterly debt payments. The county’s food and beverage fund balance, as of the first of the year, was more than $600,000.

The use of the county’s share of food and beverage proceeds for debt service on the convention center was recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission at a January meeting.  Continue reading “County council OKs food and beverage tax proceeds for convention center debt”

More than doubling of stormwater fee OK’d by Monroe County commissioners, to appear on May property tax bills

Last Wednesday, at their regular meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved an increase for the base rate of the county’s annual stormwater fee, from $35.16 to $75.77.

The decision to raise the fee came after a hearing held by the county’s stormwater management board in December, and after approval by the county council on Monday, two days before the commissioners met.

The county’s stormwater infrastructure includes 800 culverts and 1,500 miles of roadside ditches, according to Kelsey Thetonia, who’s the MS4 coordinator for the county. (MS4 stands for municipal separate storm sewer systems.)

When Thetonia briefed county councilors on the proposed increase in late February, she described the range of programs that the county is required to operate under state and federal regulations like the Clean Water Act. They include: public education, outreach, and involvement; detection and elimination of illicit discharge; control of construction site runoff; and prevention of pollution from municipal operations.

The stormwater fee helps to pay for the operation of those programs. It applies to property in unincorporated areas of Monroe County. Continue reading “More than doubling of stormwater fee OK’d by Monroe County commissioners, to appear on May property tax bills”

Monroe County prosecutor asks for analysis of possible racial justice disparities in own office

A study of possible racial justice disparities in Monroe County with “special attention given to racial disparities within the prosecutor’s office” was pitched to county councilors on Tuesday, by county prosecutor Erika Oliphant.

Screen shot of Monroe County’s county council meeting on Jan. 26, 2021.

At its work session on Tuesday, Monroe County’s councilors were presented with a request from Oliphant for funding.

On Tuesday, county councilors did not take a vote on the requested $68,000 appropriation, which would cover the contract with Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute Center for Health and Justice Research.

That approval could come at the county council’s next regular meeting, which is set for Feb. 9.

Responding to a question from councilor Kate Wiltz, Oliphant said the study of decision making in her office is separate from a comprehensive criminal justice system review that the county commissioned. Wiltz described the final report from the comprehensive review as expected “at some point, hopefully, in the very near future.”

Oliphant described the comprehensive review as having “a very different purpose and scope” from the study of her office. According to Oliphant, the question to be answered by the comprehensive review is: “How we can impact the jail population—who’s being held in jail for how long?” She added another question, “And how can we improve court processes to get those folks out of jail?”

The study that Oliphant now wants the county council to consider is focused “specifically on prosecutorial decision making,” she said. The study of her office won’t focus just on the jail population, but will include everyone impacted by prosecutorial decision making, even those people who might not see a day in jail, she said.

The researcher who would be conducting the study is Eric Grommon, an applied criminologist in the O’Neill School at IUPUI. Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor asks for analysis of possible racial justice disparities in own office”

Advisory group OKs food and beverage tax money for convention center debt

On Thursday, Monroe County commissioners cleared a key hurdle for using part of the county government’s share of the 1-percent food and beverage tax, to pay for debt on the convention center and the center’s management expenses.

By the end of its hour-long meeting, the seven-member food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) had recommended that up to $300,000 of the county’s food and beverage fund balance could be spent on convention center debt and management.

Historically, it has been innkeeper’s tax revenues that have been used to pay the convention center debt service. The innkeeper’s tax is 5-percent charge on lodging in the county.

But innkeeper’s tax revenues have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food and beverage revenues are also a bit down due to the pandemic, but not by as much. That’s why commissioners wanted the flexibility to use some of the more than $600,000 in the food and beverage fund balance to pay towards the annual debt service on the convention center. The annual debt service is $636,000.

The specific mention of the $300,000 in FABTAC’s approval was different from the original wording of the request made to the FABTAC by county commissioners. Commissioners had voted in the first week of the year to ask for consideration from the FABTAC.

In their request, the three-member board of commissioners had asked to use “any and all funds” in the county’s food and beverage tax fund.

Except for wrangling over the difference in wording, the meeting probably could have been wrapped up in under a half hour. Continue reading “Advisory group OKs food and beverage tax money for convention center debt”