Council sets special meeting for Sept. 9, looks to vote on local income tax increase a week later

At Bloomington city council’s regular Wednesday meeting, president Steve Volan called a special meeting for next week, on Sept. 9, to consider a quarter-point increase to the local income tax across Monroe County.

The special meeting was scheduled at the request of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who wants the council to vote by Sept. 16.

Depending on the form of the legislation that’s put in front of the city council on Sept. 9, the nine-member group could vote the same night to impose the quarter-point income tax increase.

The intent appears to be: Wait until Sept. 16 for a vote on enactment of the tax. But if the proposal is introduced on Sept. 9 as a resolution, instead of an ordinance, a vote could be taken that same day, without any exceptional action by the council. [Added at 1:45 p.m. Sept 3, 2020: According to city council attorney, Stephen Lucas, the public hearing associated with the vote has to be noticed 10 days in advance. So the vote could not be taken, unless public notice of a hearing were given 10 days earlier.]

An increase of 0.25 points would generate around $8 million annually across the county, of which about $4 million would go to Bloomington.

What would the tax pay for?

Dating back a couple of years, one push for increasing the county income tax has come from advocates looking to expand public transit. When Hamilton suggested a 0.5-point local income tax increase on New Year’s Day this year, funding for public transit was a prominent part of the mix. Hamilton’s State of the City address in late February sketched out the possibility of increasing Bloomington Transit’s budget by 40 percent.

Increasing BT’s budget by 40-percent works out in round numbers to the better part of $4 million, or about half of the amount that the 0.5-point increase would have generated.

Public transportation no longer appears to a significant part of the mix for the 0.25-point proposal, an adjustment that came from the mayor in mid-July.

During public commentary at Wednesday’s meeting, pedestrian and public transit advocate Greg Alexander asked that the revenue from increased local income tax revenues be put towards public transit and sidewalks.

Alexander told the council to “make clear that you’re focusing the new income tax on transportation, specifically on the bus system—and gosh wouldn’t be nice if it was a little bit for sidewalks, too.” Alexander added, “Because transportation is a key, uncontroversial function of government.”

Alexander wrapped up by saying, “I just urge you to make it really clear what you want to spend the money on. And please spend the money on bike, pedestrian, bus—especially bus transport.” Continue reading “Council sets special meeting for Sept. 9, looks to vote on local income tax increase a week later”