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.
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.
Councilmembers Dave Rollo (foreground) and Isabel Piedmont-Smith (to Rollo’s left) were among the climate strikers who filled city hall last Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
An officer from Bloomington Police department is assigned for duty at city council meetings. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
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.
Based on a report delivered on Tuesday to Bloomington’s board of park commissioners by Aren Flint, an urban forester with Davey Resource Group (DRG), the maximum tree canopy that Bloomington could achieve is 61 percent of its 15,000 acres. So the demand is essentially to max out Bloomington’s potential canopy. (The layer of leaves, branches and trunks of trees that block the view of the ground from above is called the “canopy.”)
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.