Bloomington city council OKs symbolic amendment supporting police, adopts 2021 budget on 7–1 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city budget got just seven votes of support from the nine-member city council.

In the approved budget, general fund expenditures for 2021 decreased to around $95 million, from around $99 million in 2020.

Nothing significant changed from the time the budget was first proposed in mid-August. The budget assumes a new engineering department, but that will require some future legislative action by the council.

Over the objections of some councilmembers, the new transportation demand management (TDM) position will have the economic and sustainable development department as a home, instead of the planning and transportation department.

The number of budgeted sworn police officers stayed the same as in the mid-August proposal—100, which is down from the 105 that are authorized this year. But on Wednesday night, the theoretical maximum was explicitly set at 105 through an amendment to the police and firefighter salary ordinance.

Matt Flaherty, one of four first-term councilmembers, cast votes against the salary ordinance that covers most city employees and against the basic appropriation ordinance. Those are two of the six pieces of legislation that make up the annual budget package.

About his dissent, Flaherty said, “I don’t feel like I’ve impacted this budget at all, in part because of the procedural shortcomings in how we approach budgeting and the fact that we don’t have a defined structure for collaboration and compromise.”

City council president Steve Volan was absent.

A highlight from the 2021 appropriation ordinance included a reduction in funding for sworn police officers, compared to 2020 budgeted numbers, from 105 to 100. The funding that would have paid for five police officers is allocated instead to non-sworn positions, which would be a mix of social workers, neighborhood resource specialists, and a data analyst.

A amendment sponsored by councilmembers Susan Sandberg and Sue Sgambelluri revised the salary ordinance covering police officers and firefighters to include a statement saying, “The maximum number of sworn officers within the Police Department for the year 2021 shall be set at 105.”

Because the amendment to the salary ordinance did not change the dollar amounts of any appropriations—those are made in a separate ordinance—Sandberg called the amendment “largely symbolic.” The amendment passed on a 5–3 vote, with Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger and Isabel Piedmont-Smith dissenting. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs symbolic amendment supporting police, adopts 2021 budget on 7–1 vote”

From police, to parking, to public works, to bidets: Bloomington 2021 budget Q&A flush with facts

Late August marked the conclusion of a four-night series of city council hearings on Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2021 budget. Shortly after that, councilmembers submitted written questions to city staff.

In the second week of September, staff responses to councilmember questions were posted in a Q&A document on the city’s budget web page.

Whether the concerns expressed in the written questions or during the budget hearings will result in changes to the budget won’t be known for sure until the final budget is presented to the city council on Sept. 30.

A vote to adopt Bloomington’s city budget is set for Oct. 14. Continue reading “From police, to parking, to public works, to bidets: Bloomington 2021 budget Q&A flush with facts”

Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing

On Monday, details of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 proposed budget were released, putting some meat on the bones that were previewed to the media on Friday.

Hamilton delivered remarks to the city council on Monday night for the first night of a four-day series of departmental budget hearings, which wrap up on Thursday.

If the focus is narrowed just to the general fund, the picture looks the same as last year, with a couple of caveats.

Proposed for this year is $48.69 million which is a 4.1 percent increase, compared to last year’s $46.76 million. But adjusting for a $2 million package of “Recover Forward” initiatives and a decrease in property tax cap expenditures of $193,772, the proposed budget works out to a zero percent increase (out to two decimal places).

The mayor’s proposed budget draws on $3.3 million in reserves—$2 million from the rainy day fund and $1.3 in fund balances. By the end of 2022, Hamilton expects to have drawn down total reserves from four months’ worth of operating expenses to three months’ worth. Continue reading “Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing”