Council Preview Aug. 28, 2019: Buses, fire allocations from public safety income tax

Two agenda items appear for a second reading and final vote on the Bloomington’s city council’s agenda for Wednesday.

One is an appropriation ordinance for Bloomington Transit buses—BT won some competitive federal grants totaling $900,000. That makes the ordinance amount about $1.13 million because of the 20-percent local share that BT will need to contribute towards the cost of the three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service. The fixed-route service bus is a battery electric bus. All three buses are replacement vehicles, not part of a fleet expansion. [Previous Beacon coverage: 1 2]

The second agenda item is one piece of the approvals the city council will need to make for the allocation of public safety local income tax funds. The income tax rate of 0.25 percent is estimated to generate about $8.65 million countywide. On Wednesday, the council will be asked to approve $389,461 worth of funding from that tax revenue—it’s the portion that goes to “qualified service providers.” In practical terms, that means the money will go to a half dozen different fire departments in the county.

Legislative packets with detailed background are available on the city council’s document page.
Continue reading “Council Preview Aug. 28, 2019: Buses, fire allocations from public safety income tax”

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”

$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council

A total of $902,401 in competitive federal grants recently won by Bloomington Transit (BT) will allow the local public transit agency to buy three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service.

Cropped 08.12.2019 bus and dunn - 2
A Bloomington Transit bus (diesel) navigates its way south under the railroad bridge at 10th Street.

All the buses are replacement vehicles, part of a regular program to keep the fleet up to date.

The new fixed-route bus will be a battery-electric vehicle, one of two that Bloomington Transit is now planning to order. The first battery-electric bus was already in the 2019 budget.

The electric buses are expected to arrive in late 2020 or early 2021.

A press release issued by the city about the federal grant awards touted the benefits of electric buses. They include: cost-effectiveness; zero direct carbon emissions; reduction in dependency on fossil fuels; and quietness of operation.

On Wednesday (Aug. 14, 2019) the city council is scheduled to get a first reading of the necessary appropriations ordinance. That ordinance totals $1,128,000 because of the 20-percent local share that BT will need to contribute towards the cost of the buses. Continue reading “$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council”