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”

Food and beverage tax support for pandemic-impacted businesses continues, advisory group to meet Tuesday

Last Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners awarded about $21,000 more in grants to pandemic-affected tourism-related businesses outside the city limits of Bloomington. That brings the total amount awarded by the county to $266,442.

bordered R-OUT Unemployment Initial Claims Monroe County 2008-2020 June 14 output
In the last three weeks for which numbers are available, initial claims for unemployment filed in Monroe County are 368, 354 and 363. That’s  still around the top levels seen during the 2008 downturn.

The food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC), has recommended that the county can use up to $400,000 of such tax tax proceeds to help businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Bloomington has a corresponding loan program for up to $2 million of food and beverage tax proceeds. Through last Wednesday, the city’s loan numbers looked the same as the week before—$939,600 has been awarded to 34 businesses. All of the submitted applications had been processed as of last Wednesday.

Bloomington has loaned out another $247,170 for pandemic-relief using funds from the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association.

On Tuesday at 3:15 p.m., the FABTAC will hold a meeting, when it’s possible that they’ll approve an expansion to the county’s grant program. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax support for pandemic-impacted businesses continues, advisory group to meet Tuesday”

Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact

New2 R Output FOOD AND BEVERAGE REVENUE BY MONTH YEAR OVER YEARThroughApril2020

The impact of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s initial stay-at-home order, which was effective starting March 25, is starting to show up in food and beverage tax revenue reports for Monroe County.

In the April report delivered to food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) members at their regular meeting on Tuesday, revenues from the 1-percent tax were $204,681.

That’s down about 30 percent from the $291,297 reported for April in 2019.

An April report of food and beverage tax revenues will reflect collections made in March, based on discussion as the meeting. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact”

Monroe County’s total food and beverage COVID-19 relief nudges towards $200K as board gets updates on blood drive, mask promotion

Commish Purdie Mask Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 10.45.38 AM
Screen shot from the May 20, 2020 meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners, which was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s commissioners, another $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant was made to a tourism-related business outside Bloomington city limits, using food and beverage tax proceeds.

The breakdown for Pili’s Party Taco’s use of the $5,000 grant is: $1,800 rent; $1,200 insurance (truck and supplies); and $2,000 for employee salaries.

The board also got an update on an upcoming blood drive, a mask-wearing promotion, and a comprehensive county planning update. Continue reading “Monroe County’s total food and beverage COVID-19 relief nudges towards $200K as board gets updates on blood drive, mask promotion”

Monroe County on path for second $200K-installment of COVID-19 business relief using food and beverage tax proceeds

At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) recommended another $200,000 for Monroe County officials to allocate to tourism-related businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

cropped 2020-05-05 FABTAC Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 3.22.49 PM
Screenshot of the May 5, 2020 meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission, which was held by Zoom video conference.

That brings to $400,000 the total recommended by the FABTAC for the county’s COVID-19 relief program.

The county’s grant program for COVID-19 business relief is just for tourism-related businesses outside the Bloomington city limits.

The city of Bloomington has a similar program using its own share of the food and beverage tax proceeds, but the allocations to businesses inside the city limits are being made as loans, not grants. The city’s program taps $2 million from the city’s share of food and beverage tax proceeds.

The county council will have an ordinance on its May 12 agenda next week to appropriate the additional money recommended on Tuesday by the FABTAC. The following day at their regular meeting, the county commissioners expect to be able to make some additional grant allocations to businesses.

At Tuesday’s FABTAC meeting, president of the county’s board of commissioners, Julie Thomas, encouraged businesses to continue to apply for the grants.

An initial installment of $200,000 in food and beverage tax proceeds was recommended by the FABTAC in March. Continue reading “Monroe County on path for second $200K-installment of COVID-19 business relief using food and beverage tax proceeds”