Convention and visitors group eyes 2021 recovery, helped by food and beverage money

On Thursday, convention and visitors commissioner Mike Campbell delivered to his colleagues an update on Monroe County’s innkeeper’s tax revenues. The news was not as bad as over the summer.

Another bright spot on Thursday for the five-member convention and visitors commission (CVC) related to a different revenue source—the countywide food and beverage tax. The CVC approved a quarterly debt payment of $159,000 from a fund that holds food and beverage money.

It was a bright spot, because historically it has been the innkeeper’s tax that has paid for debt service. The use of the food and beverage money needed approval from the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC).

The FABTAC recommended that up to $300,000 of the county’s share of food and beverage tax revenues could be used to service the debt from past renovations and land acquisition for the convention center.

Monthly revenues from innkeeper’s tax, a 5-percent charge on lodging in the county, hit their COVID-19 pandemic low point in June. That’s when the $48,541 collected in 2020 was just 16.8 percent of the $288,525 that was collected in June 2019.

The $189,306 that has been collected through the first two months of 2021, is 65.2 percent of the $290,290 in innkeeper’s tax revenue that was collected in January and February last year, Campbell reported.

About the potential positive signs of recovery in those figures, Campbell said, “There seems to be at least some solace in that it’s not where we were in the summertime.” Continue reading “Convention and visitors group eyes 2021 recovery, helped by food and beverage money”

County council OKs food and beverage tax proceeds for convention center debt

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Monroe County councilors approved a $300,000 appropriation of food and beverage tax revenue to help make debt payments in connection with the county’s convention center.

The debt covers renovations and land acquisition that have already been made. It’s not related to the planned future expansion of the center, which is still part of city and county plans—even if it has been on hold during the pandemic year.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s state of the city address, given on Feb. 25, mentioned the convention center expansion as a question: “What is the future for the convention center and its planned expansion?”

The money approved by the county council on Tuesday will cover a bit under two of the $159,000 quarterly debt payments. The county’s food and beverage fund balance, as of the first of the year, was more than $600,000.

The use of the county’s share of food and beverage proceeds for debt service on the convention center was recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission at a January meeting.  Continue reading “County council OKs food and beverage tax proceeds for convention center debt”

Monroe County asks food and beverage tax group to recommend use of tax proceeds for convention center debt

At their Wednesday meeting, Monroe County commissioners decided to send a request to the local food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) that they be able to use “any and all” of the county’s share of food and beverage tax proceeds for existing convention center debt and management expenses.

Historically it has been innkeeper’s tax revenues that have been used to pay the convention center debt service. But  innkeeper’s tax revenues have have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food and beverage revenues are also down due to the pandemic, but not by as much.

Under the state statute on food and beverage taxes, the request needs to go before the seven-member FABTAC and get a favorable recommendation, before the tax revenue can be used the way the commissioners are requesting. Continue reading “Monroe County asks food and beverage tax group to recommend use of tax proceeds for convention center debt”

Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer

An aerial view of the Dillman Road wastewater treatment facility south of Bloomington, where grease from the city’s FOG (fat, oil and grease) program can be hauled, where it oxidizes in the sun. (The image is dated April 2020 in the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property records.)

“The way we handle grease at the [Dillman Road wastewater treatment] plant, it’s actually discharged into a lagoon where it is oxidized in the sun.”

That was city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson talking to the Bloomington city council on Wednesday about the grease that about 600 local restaurants clean out of their traps and are allowed to haul to the city’s wastewater treatment plant south of town.

The item on the city council’s agenda was a change to the ordinance on the FOG (fats, oils, and grease) program, which requires restaurants (food service establishments) to use grease traps to keep it from clogging up the city’s sanitary sewer system. The ordinance change was approved unanimously.

After the ordinance change, the program is still in place but gives restaurants a cheaper option in grease retention devices. The revised ordinance also establishes a “preferred pumper program” for haulers to take the grease from the traps, which have to be cleaned out on a regular basis, down to the city’s Dillman road facility. Continue reading “Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer”

Monroe County commissioners set Nov. 16 meeting to get public feedback on planned convention center expansion

A public input session on the future of the Monroe County convention center has been set for Monday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. It will be conducted by video conference.

President of the county board of commissioners Julie Thomas made the announcement at the end of the board’s regular Wednesday morning meeting.

When The Square Beacon touched base with county council president Eric Spoonmore, he said, “It’s a good idea,” to have a meeting on the topic. Spoonmore added that it’s important to reach out to Bloomington officials to make sure they are included in the meeting.

The backdrop to the announcement includes an uncontroversial six-month pause to the project caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But before that, the project had already been stalled for 10 months in a controversial way, over governance issues. The architect for the project has not yet been contracted for the building design.
Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners set Nov. 16 meeting to get public feedback on planned convention center expansion”

Convention center budget session: A glimpse into possible timing for tourism recovery

A week ago Friday, the Monroe County council wrapped up a series of four budget work sessions in as many days.

On the docket for Friday were the funds related to the county’s convention center.

The recovery of the area’s tourism industry from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has already begun, but it will be gradual. It will follow a U-shaped trend, not a V-shaped pattern, according to Mike Campbell, who serves on the county’s 5-member convention and visitors commission.

Campbell sits on the board in his capacity as the associate director of the Indiana University Memorial Union.

Campbell gave projections for the county’s 5-percent innkeeper tax based on numbers that show a recovery starting to take shape. Revenues are expected to rebound from a low of about $49,000, reported in June this year. That was just 17 percent of the total for June in 2019, which was about $289,000.

Already on the books are increases in July and August to 40 percent and 60 percent of revenue for those same months last year. Based on September’s numbers so far, Campbell thinks the now-projected $155,000 figure for September will be hit. It won’t be until August of next year, however, when the revenues are forecasted to be back to previous levels.

Some of the projected recovery is due to latent travel demand that would not have been seen otherwise, because the usual large events are not taking place. For example, the cancelation of Indiana University football games means a loss of bookings, but that makes room for people looking to visit the area to view the fall foliage. Continue reading “Convention center budget session: A glimpse into possible timing for tourism recovery”

Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing

On Monday, details of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 proposed budget were released, putting some meat on the bones that were previewed to the media on Friday.

Hamilton delivered remarks to the city council on Monday night for the first night of a four-day series of departmental budget hearings, which wrap up on Thursday.

If the focus is narrowed just to the general fund, the picture looks the same as last year, with a couple of caveats.

Proposed for this year is $48.69 million which is a 4.1 percent increase, compared to last year’s $46.76 million. But adjusting for a $2 million package of “Recover Forward” initiatives and a decrease in property tax cap expenditures of $193,772, the proposed budget works out to a zero percent increase (out to two decimal places).

The mayor’s proposed budget draws on $3.3 million in reserves—$2 million from the rainy day fund and $1.3 in fund balances. By the end of 2022, Hamilton expects to have drawn down total reserves from four months’ worth of operating expenses to three months’ worth. Continue reading “Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing”

Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money

At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved the 10th and probably final round of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That brought the total amount awarded by the county to right around $400,000, distributed to over 30 different entities involved in tourism-related enterprises.

The total amount of tax proceeds recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) for the purpose COVID-19 relief by the county was $400,000.

One of the awards given by commissioners on Wednesday morning was a $10,000 loan to a previous grant recipient, Trailhead Enterprises. The money, which will pay for an air-conditioning unit, is supposed be paid back by Aug. 1, according to county attorney Margie Rice.

The other two grant awards on Wednesday went to Rising Star Gymnastics for $25,000 and The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology for $65,000.

Continue reading “Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money”

Monroe County passes $300K mark in food and beverage tax allocations for relief of COVID-19 impacts

At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved a couple of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

cropped 2020-06-24 monroe county history center IMG_3266
The Monroe County History Center is located at 6th and Washington streets in downtown Bloomington. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

It was the ninth round of grant awards, which brought the total amount awarded by the county to just over $300,000 to 32 different entities. One of Wednesday’s awards, for $6,000, went to Misfit Toy Enterprises, a karaoke service.

The other grant approved on Wednesday, for $23,225, went to the Monroe County History Center.

At Wednesday’s meeting, history center director Susan Dyar thanked commissioners, telling them that a fundraising gala had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, so generating revenue has been a struggle. The center re-opened to the public on Tuesday, she said.

The history center’s award is the largest of the grants given by the county under its program. Continue reading “Monroe County passes $300K mark in food and beverage tax allocations for relief of COVID-19 impacts”

Food and beverage tax group OKs expansion of eligibility for COVID-19 relief

REVISED R Output FOOD AND BEVERAGE REVENUE BY MONTH YEAR OVER YEAR June 16 update

Even though it’s physically located inside the Bloomington city limits, the Monroe County History Center is now eligible for a grant through an already established county government program that’s designed to support businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the specific effect of a decision made at a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC). But the FABTAC’s decision applies to any entity “whose purpose and mission is to support the entire county in tourism related endeavors.”

What’s new for the county’s grant program is the suspension of a rigid geographic requirement that a grantee be located outside the Bloomington city limits.

The FABTAC is a seven-member group made up of city and county electeds, and three owners of businesses that collect the 1-percent food and beverage tax from their patrons. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax group OKs expansion of eligibility for COVID-19 relief”