Bloomington Mayor Offers More Public Safety Workers, $ 500 COVID Bounty
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s new budget plan includes more public safety positions, more money for parks, increases, bonuses for all employees and $ 250,000 to recruit and retain police officers.
The mayor unveiled his spending proposal for 2022 on Friday, and he wants to grant all full-time non-union employees 2.75% increases and a federally funded COVID relief bonus of $ 500, while the mayor part-time employees would get $ 300. Unionized employees will receive increases in accordance with their contracts.
Pandemic impact:City fiscal health check
Hamilton also offered to fund 10 additional staff in the police service, including five sworn officers, four community service specialists and a supervisor. The five sworn-in officer positions were on the books for this year but were not funded, the mayor said.
The mayor said he also wants to add 3.5 positions to the fire department, including two community care specialists who will focus on community and preventive health.
The city will hold budget hearings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Department heads will present their budget proposals to city council, which will ultimately approve, reduce or reject the mayor’s budget plan.
Hamilton said on a Zoom call on Friday that he was continuing to frame his spending proposal amid the challenges he wants the city to tackle in the 2020s, “particularly walking around trying to focus on sustainability and inclusion for our entire community “.
The city’s overall budget, excluding utilities and transit, would be $ 106.6 million, up 12.1%, with the vast majority of the increase covered by federal stimulus dollars.
The mayor wants to increase the budget of the city’s general fund, its main operating fund, from $ 574,000, or 1.2%, to $ 48.4 million. This fund pays for most municipal services, including police and fire protection.
According to Hamilton’s proposal, the parks department would get a budget increase of $ 1.3 million, or 15.5%, to $ 9.7 million. Hamilton said the parks department’s spending was increasing mainly because it had added parks and trails.
Some of the expenses, including one-time employee bonuses and recruiting dollars for the police department, will be covered by federal COVID-19 relief dollars, which the mayor plans to spend nearly $ 11 million next year. . That figure includes $ 1 million left over from last year’s $ 2.2 trillion coronavirus aid, relief and economic security law signed by President Donald Trump and nearly $ 10 million. of the $ 22.3 million the city has allocated to the $ 1.9 trillion US bailout bill signed this year by President Joe Biden.
Almost $ 4 million in relief would go to the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department, including $ 1.6 million to help the homeless, about $ 1 million to develop rental housing and $ 1.25 million. to increase home ownership.
Most departments would get COVID relief dollars, including $ 1.4 million for the economic and sustainable development department, $ 1 million for the streets department and around $ 1.1 million for the parks department, in part to help develop a pilot workforce development program to create “entry-level exploratory positions in the green jobs industry.”
Union workers, including police and firefighters, will receive increases based on their contracts. For police officers, it will be 2.9%, while firefighters will have a bump of 2%. Employees of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Unions, including those in the city’s public works, parks and utilities, will receive increases of 2.5%. The city will negotiate new contracts with the police and AFSCME unions next year.
Council members usually have their own spending priorities which may differ from the mayor’s proposal or department heads’ intentions.
Four city council members – Matt Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Kate Rosenbarger and Stephen Volan – issued a press release in which they recommended that the city’s upcoming budget focus on sustainability, transportation and housing on Friday. :
- Implementation of the city’s Climate Action Plan, incentives for city employees to travel to work without using private vehicles, and study of a city-wide pilot composting program.
- Implementation of the priority cycling network as described in the City’s Transportation Plan, studies of the corridors of Atwater Avenue / Third Street and College Avenue / Walnut Street, public discussion on Kirkwood Avenue as a shared street , increased investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure on par with an automobile infrastructure and a pilot program for snow removal on busy sidewalks.
- Development of a comprehensive strategic housing plan, development guidance by owners of secondary housing units and continued support for the Heading Home 2021 plan to make homelessness rare, brief and non-repetitive.
What this means for your property taxes
The city budget is a spending plan and may not reflect actual city spending in any given year. Departments may spend less than budget, in which case the city typically puts the bulk of the unspent dollars into its savings. Departments may also spend more than their budget allows, although they must obtain board approval for additional funds.
Tax units can also adopt a budget that allows spending that exceeds projected revenue, provided the units have sufficient reserves to cover the deficit.
The city budget does not determine whether residents’ property taxes increase or decrease, as it depends on whether the state allows tax units to increase the amount they can collect through property taxes. The state determines the increase or decrease in property taxes based on changes in Indiana’s six-year average non-farm personal income. For next year, the state is allowing taxing units, including the city of Bloomington, to increase their property tax levy by 4.3%, the highest in at least 15 years, according to the mayor.
The taxing units do not have to take the increase or can take a partial increase, but they almost always take the maximum.
The city predicts the increase would increase its 2022 property tax collections in the general fund from just over $ 1 million to nearly $ 25.5 million. The city expects its income tax revenue from local options in this fund to decline by just over $ 1 million to nearly $ 12.6 million. He also expects the fund’s miscellaneous income to decline by about $ 1.7 million or 15.5%.
The drop in income, coupled with the increased budget, means the city would be drawing on its general fund reserves for the second year in a row. Reserves were around $ 15.8 million at the end of 2020, are expected to drop to $ 12.6 million by the end of this year, and $ 11.3 million at the end of 2022.
Combined with dollars from the rainy day fund, that would mean the city’s reserves would drop to 23.6% of annual general fund expenditure, from a peak of 51% at the end of 2019. The Government Finance Officers Association recommends reserves of at least 16.7%, which would be about two months of general spending, although City Comptroller Jeff Underwood has set an informal target of 33%, or four months of spending. The city’s reserves have been close to this target since 2014. During the last recession, in 2008, reserves fell to less than 11%.
Reserves are a buffer in a recession and are needed for cash flow reasons, as the city is primarily funded by property taxes, but only receives those dollars twice a year, right after people pay their bills. property tax in May and November. Each year, government units must wait several months before receiving their first property tax allowance. This means governments need to keep enough reserves to pay their bills before they collect more property taxes.
The continued reduction in reserves, especially during periods of economic expansion, can cause tax problems for tax units that may require a reduction in services, increases in taxes or fees or a combination of these.
Tax troubles:Owen County officials burned more than $ 4 million in reserves. Now they weigh a tax hike
Tax units project the amount of revenue they expect to receive in the next fiscal year, but these projections may overestimate or underestimate actual revenue. A prolonged pandemic, for example, could lead to business closings, job losses and reduced consumer spending, which could mean the city would get less revenue than expected.
It is not known at this point whether or by how much a resident’s municipal portion of property taxes will increase in the next year, as this is determined by a formula that includes data that has not yet been collected, including the budget, which has not yet been approved. , the value of all properties in the city and by how much the value of an individual property decreases or increases relative to other properties.
The mechanics of Indiana tax bills are complex, and even relatively minor changes in assessed assessments can dramatically increase tax bills, depending on factors such as growth in state revenues and whether the A property’s tax district is experiencing significant growth through business expansion or the construction of new homes. .
Local housing market:Lack of houses for sale
Last year, all properties in Monroe County were worth nearly $ 12 billion, up 6.5% from the previous year. The value increases when new homes or businesses are under construction or when a tight real estate market pushes up prices. Last year’s increase in gross numbers of around $ 729 million was a record, and the county assessor this spring estimated this year’s increase would be close to $ 1 billion.
How to participate
The city budget hearings will take place virtually.
Phone: 312-626-6799, with meeting ID 998-7245-3695 and password 906533.
Boris Ladwig is the municipal government reporter for the Herald-Times. Contact him at [email protected]