The Trades District parking garage, from the northeast.
Incoming and outgoing deputy mayors. Left: Don Griffin. Right: Mick Renneisen.
Saturday’s ribbon cutting at Bloomington’s new 350-space parking garage in the Trades District, west and north of the city hall building on Morton Street, was a chance to mark an upcoming transition in city government.
A requested rezone for 87 acres of land at the southern tip of Bloomington, next to I-69, will be considered by the city council this Wednesday (March 17).
The requested rezone is based on the idea that it will improve the marketability of the land, which has sat undeveloped under its current zoning for more than three decades.
At its meeting last Wednesday, the council’s four-member land use committee recommended against the full council’s approval of the request from owner Bill Brown, to rezone the parcel from PUD (planned unit development) to MC (mixed-use corridor).
At their meeting last week, land use committee members did not discuss the kind of zoning commitments that the plan commission had hoped the committee would negotiate. Zoning commitments are a way to constrain a zoning district to exclude certain uses.
None of the four members of the land use committee voted in favor of the rezone request.
On Monday night, Bloomington’s city council voted 4–5 on a request from mayor John Hamilton for a quarter-point increase to the countywide local income tax. That kills the proposal and it will not be considered by other governing bodies in Monroe County.
A press release from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, issued 15 minutes before midnight on Wednesday and shortly after the city council’s meeting concluded, announced the news.
The headline of the press release leaves the defeat of the proposal to the calculation of readers: “City Council Renders Four Votes for 0.25% Local Income Tax Increase.”
The press release confirmed that the proposed ordinance considered by Bloomington’s city council will not be forwarded for consideration to the other members of Monroe County’s income tax council, which includes the county council and the two town councils. [IC-6-3.6-3-8]
The four votes in favor of the tax increase came from Dave Rollo, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger and Steve Volan.
Voting against the proposal were Ron Smith, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, and Jim Sims.
The press release quotes Hamilton saying, “I am disappointed that a majority of our city council did not affirm the need for government to step up in this time of multiple crises to take care of our residents, and protect and advance the community for subsequent generations with additional revenue.”
The extra 0.25 points of local income tax would have brought the total rate paid by Monroe County residents to 1.5950 percent. The higher rate would have generated around $4 million for the city of Bloomington and around $4 million for Monroe County government and the two towns of Ellettsville and Stinesville.
At Wednesday night’s meeting of the Bloomington city council, the voting tally on the proposal to enact a quarter point increase to Monroe County’s income tax was 4–5.
Voting yes were Dave Rollo, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger and Steve Volan.
Voting no were Ron Smith, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, and Jim Sims.
Based on the wording of the state statute, the proposal looks like it is dead and does not need to be forwarded to the other members of the tax council—the Monroe County council, the Ellettsville town council and the Stinesville town council.
That’s because Bloomington’s city council action on Wednesday was a resolution to propose an ordinance to the rest of the tax council.
The statute says, “To [present an ordinance to other members of the tax council for passage], the member must adopt a resolution to propose the ordinance to the local income tax council and distribute a copy of the proposed ordinance to the county auditor.” [IC-6-3.6-3-8]
Given that the vote on the resolution was 4–5, the Bloomington city council did not adopt a resolution proposing an ordinance to the other members of the council.
A question asked by The Square Beacon at the meeting during public commentary, to confirm that the other tax council members will not need to vote on the proposal, did not get a response.
On Wednesday night at a special meeting, Bloomington’s city council started its deliberations on a proposal to increase the countywide local income tax by a quarter point. The debate will continue on Sept. 16.
That amount would take the rate from 1.345 percent to 1.595 percent. The higher rate would generate about $4 million annually for Bloomington. A little more than $4 million would be generated each year for Monroe County government and the town of Ellettsville.
A public hearing and a vote is scheduled for Sept. 16.
Under a proposed ordinance released to the public a few hours before the city council’s special meeting, a new city commission would have some control over expenditures from the extra revenue.
Under the ordinance, a new non-reverting fund would be created, called the Sustainable Development Fund.
Future ordinances and resolutions requiring expenditures from the fund would be subject to approval of a new seven-member commission, called the Sustainable Development Fund Advisory Commission (SDFAC).
Under the new ordinance, without a majority recommendation from the seven-member commission, the city council could not adopt an ordinance requiring an expenditure from the new fund.
Membership on the new commission would consist of: the mayor, three councilmembers and three citizens. That means an ordinance requiring expenditures from the new fund could be blocked by a coalition consisting of a single councilmember and three citizens.
The ordinance creating the new commission got a first reading on Wednesday, but no discussion, because under local code no debate or amendments are allowed at a first reading. It will be considered at a second reading on Sept. 16.
Wednesday marked the first public deliberations by the city council on the possible income tax increase. A city council work session held last Friday was limited to asking questions of the administration.
Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton has renewed his call, made at the start of the year, for the Bloomington city council to increase the local income tax.
Such a tax would apply to all residents of Monroe County.
The additional revenue from the income tax would still go towards climate action and sustainability initiatives. But the 0.25-percentage-point increase suggested by Hamilton on Thursday is half the 0.5-point increase that Hamilton had proposed on New Year’s Day.
Another highlight from Thursday’s message from the mayor, which could be overshadowed by reaction to the income tax proposal, is an indication that recent calls to “defund the police” have resonated with the mayor at least a certain degree.
The climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council on March 11, 2020. From left: Dave Rollo, Kate Rosenbarger, Matt Flaherty, and Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
Ilana Stonebraker, who recently moved to Bloomington Tippecanoe County where she served as a Democrat on the county council, addresses the climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council.
Daniel Bingham, who ran for Bloomington city council last year, addresses the climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council.
Bloomington city council’s climate action and resilience committee, a four-member subset of the council, convened a meeting Wednesday night to hear feedback from the public on a possible countywide increase to the local income tax.
About three dozen people attended, maybe a third of them Indiana University students, for whom attendance was a class assignment.
Based on the statutory framework for the county tax council, a simple 5–4 majority on the Bloomington city council would be enough to enact the tax.
The size of the increase that was floated on New Year’s Day by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, was 0.5 points. That would bring the total amount of local income tax paid by county residents to 1.845 percent.
Clark Greiner, business development director for Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), gives the presentation to the county council about the project on Ernest Health’s behalf.
County councilors at their March 10, 2020 meeting.
In May this year, at the corner of Curry Pike and State Road 46, Ernest Health might be able to start building a $20-million inpatient rehabilitation hospital. And if construction goes as planned, the multi-state health care company could be treating patients there as soon as a year later.
That depends in part on getting a tax break from Monroe County.
On Tuesday afternoon, outside the kiln building of the old Showers Brothers Furniture Company, Mike Trotzke was handed ownership to a structure that Mayor John Hamilton moments before had called the “oven of Bloomington’s industrial activation.”
Performing the handover was Bloomington’s redevelopment commission president, Don Griffin. He delivered a laugh line, which achieved its intended effect as he checked the metal on the ring: “Let’s make sure this isn’t my house key!”