Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks

On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.

The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.

A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.

Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.

Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.

They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.

The council will need find time to approve a new salary ordinance by the end of the year if police and firefighters are going to get paid in 2020. That will mean fitting it into a schedule packed from now until the end of the year with hearings and deliberations on the updated Unified Development Ordinance. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks”

First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.”

At a special meeting held on Wednesday night, the Bloomington city council got a formal first reading of the half dozen ordinances that make up the 2020 budget, proposed by Mayor John Hamilton’s administration.

At their committee-of-the whole meeting, which followed on the heels of the special meeting, the council took a series of non-binding straw votes on the ordinances.

The outcome of those straw votes formed a record of their discontent.

They’re disappointed that the city and the police union have not yet reached an agreement after more than 18 months of negotiation, and they’re frustrated by the sheer volume of conflicting information about staffing levels, morale, recruitment and retention that they’ve heard from the police union and administration.

They’re also disappointed that the mayor declined to add a top-level position to manage the city’s response to climate change.

The areas of disappointment will not have surprised the administration or the watching public. Councilmembers had voiced many of the same concerns during a series of departmental budget hearings held over four days in August. Continue reading “First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.””

Bloomington’s 2020 budget heads to council with few changes, stalled bargaining talks mean flat pay for police

 

The 2020 budget that’s included in the Bloomington city council’s meeting packet for this Wednesday is virtually the same as the one that was presented in a series of departmental hearings in August.

It does not include, as a couple of councilmembers had suggested, the creation of a top-level position to direct the city’s action to meet goals related to climate change. The administration’s budget also does not include any additional police officer positions—beyond the two extra officers that were already a part of the budget proposal. The possibility of adding more officers had been suggested by some councilmembers.

Included in the meeting packet is a memo to the council from the city’s director of human resources, Caroline Shaw, that says in writing what councilmembers heard from police union representatives at their most recent meeting, last Wednesday: No contract agreement has been reached between the city and the police. Continue reading “Bloomington’s 2020 budget heads to council with few changes, stalled bargaining talks mean flat pay for police”

City council 2020 budget talks look towards ending leaf collection, increasing trash data

The city’s director of public works, Adam Wason, stood at the podium for three hours at Thursday’s 2020 departmental budget hearings held by the Bloomington city council.

He had to present budget proposals for seven different divisions in his department: admin ($1,918,580), animal care and control ($1,903,971), fleet ($3,358,141), street and traffic ($8,331,136), sanitation ($4,360,802), main facilities ($1,192,487) and parking facilities ($2,397,734).

The seven divisions together made for a 2020 public works budget that totals about $23.5 million. It’s an amount that’s more than any other city department, except for utilities, which is proposed at $46.6 million. In contrast to public works, which is supported by general fund money, utilities gets its funding from rate payers.

Even if it’s safe for the 2020 budget, funding for one public works activity—with a total cost pegged at about $936,000—could disappear in 2021: curbside leaf collection. Councilmembers floated the idea of eliminating it next year or at least reducing its scale by promoting composting.

Responding to the council, Wason indicated his support for cutting the program. And deputy mayor Mick Renneisen told the council, “The administration is receptive to a change in the leafing program…”

Renneisen also indicated support for a long-term plan to consolidate public works divisions all under one roof. He said it’s on a timeline that’s far enough away that it doesn’t appear in any of the city’s current long-range capital plans.

While councilmembers, including Steve Volan, generally reacted positively to the presentations Wason gave, Volan was critical of the lack of data provided for one of the divisions: sanitation. Volan wanted some basic data to appear on a slide about trash collection, like the 6,771 tons collected in 2018—which was about 20 percent more than the 5,683 tons the year before. Continue reading “City council 2020 budget talks look towards ending leaf collection, increasing trash data”

2020 budget prompts Bloomington city council thoughts on climate change: From definitional questions to golf courses

Drop shadowed Sustainability Ord_05-15 (1)
Extracted from the 2005 ordinance that established the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Wednesday’s departmental budget hearings in front of Bloomington’s city council returned to a couple of themes from Monday’s session on the budget overview.  On Monday, councilmember Dave Rollo asked questions about the city’s preparedness for a looming economic downturn. And Isabel Piedmont-Smith questioned whether the budget generally did enough to address climate change.

On Wednesday, the topics of the economy and climate change led to some of the most energetic councilmember speaking turns of the four-day series of hearings. The more animated councilmember remarks came after some members of the public gave commentary on the budget of the Economic & Sustainable Development Department.

Continue reading “2020 budget prompts Bloomington city council thoughts on climate change: From definitional questions to golf courses”

Bloomington city councilmembers want more police officers in 2020 budget, more data

Two additional patrol officers, which would bring Bloomington’s total sworn police force to a total of 105, are a part of the 2020 budget that the chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, presented to the city council on Tuesday night.

Some councilmembers told Diekhoff they wanted to see more officers added than just the two. And they wanted more data from Diekhoff as they weigh how to approach the eventual adoption of the budget in October. Continue reading “Bloomington city councilmembers want more police officers in 2020 budget, more data”

Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?

On Tuesday night, Bloomington’s utilities director Vic Kelson presented the city council with a proposed $1.7 million for water main replacement as part of the department’s 2020 budget.  He described how that would pay to replace roughly 2.5 miles of pipe.

During the time for councilmember questions, Isabel Piedmont-Smith responded to the 2.5-mile figure by saying, “That does sound like very little.” Piedmont-Smith’s assessment was based on the roughly 420 miles of pipe in the system, and the frequency of recent high profile water main breaks.

At a press briefing on the Friday before the week of budget hearings, Mayor John Hamilton said the pace of water main replacement was not fast enough, because pipes don’t last as long as it will take to replace them all—if the current pace of replacement is maintained. About the 2.5 miles per year that has been budgeted for the last few years, Hamilton said, “That’s way better than it was five years ago, but is not good enough.”

At Tuesday’s city council session, utilities director Vic Kelson put the possibility of increasing the pace of water main replacement in the context of a possible rate increase. The current residential rate for City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) is $3.73 per 1,000 gallons with a monthly $5.89 charge for a 5/8-inch meter. Any proposal for an increase in water rates has to be presented to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Bloomington’s rate case to the IURC is planned for 2020.

Kelson said as a part of the rate case, CBU would be evaluating whether the 2.5 miles of pipe a year is aggressive enough. Continue reading “Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?”

Budget 2020: Bloomington fire chief points to improvements in fire call and response time stats, says situation now too fluid to put timeline on new stations

The 10-year capital plan for Bloomington’s fire department includes two additional fire stations—one in the southwest and one in the southeast part of town. It also includes the replacement of two existing stations, and a relocation of the station that serves the Indiana University campus.

Those five stations together have an estimated cost of $28 million, and the three additional fire engines they’ll house will add another $1.8 million.

But those costs aren’t pegged to any particular year in the 10-year plan. So they’re not a part of the proposed $13.25 million budget for 2020, which Bloomington’s fire chief, Jason Moore, presented to the city council on Tuesday night.

Responding to a councilmember question about the timeframe for building new stations,  Moore said, “To start making decisions when everything is so fluid, I feel would be rushed and ill-advised. So we will be making recommendations when it’s appropriate and when the entire big picture of public safety can be really painted crystal clear for everyone.”

Moore also told the council that additional improvements in response times would likely depend on adding staff and stations. Continue reading “Budget 2020: Bloomington fire chief points to improvements in fire call and response time stats, says situation now too fluid to put timeline on new stations”

City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit

Possible federal grants are a key part of the Bloomington Transit 2020 budget presented to the city council on Tuesday by the public transit agency’s general manager, Lew May. Councilmembers appeared receptive to the planned $4 million in capital expenditures to acquire four more alternative-fuel buses.

BT is also applying for a federal grant to fund a shared-ride microtransit pilot program to take up the slack on certain routes after fixed-route service ends for the day.

Council president Dave Rollo suggested looking beyond traditional federal funding sources. Among the local funding sources he suggested were tax increment finance funds and local income taxes.

A budget increase of $87,000 to cover an outside contract to add a security officer at BT’s downtown transit station drew scrutiny from councilmembers.

As it did on Monday, which was the first day of a week’s worth of departmental budget hearings, climate change drove a lot of the council’s commentary. Councilmembers wanted BT to consider adding solar panels to a new roof for the BT facility on Grimes Lane, which is currently budgeted for $363,250.

Before the unanimous straw vote was taken by councilmembers in support of the proposed budget, Dave Rollo said, “We are running out of time. And we need to direct capital to Bloomington Transit, if we’re going to be serious about climate—it’s got to be part of the strategy.”

The council’s vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 10 after getting a first reading on Sept. 25.

Continue reading “City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit”

Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech

Reactions from some Bloomington councilmembers to the administration’s proposed 2020 budget on Monday included two major questions: whether the budget does enough to address climate change; and whether Bloomington is ready for a looming recession. Continue reading “Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech”