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Page last updated on September 7, 2021 at 3:14 pm

Welcome all, and thank you City Council members for the opportunity this evening to give an overview of our proposed 2020 budget.  As we gather each year, we discuss the most important policy document in city government -- the budget, that converts our values into investments, our goals into plans with dollars attached. 


This is the fourth budget that I have presented to Council, and I want to thank you for your continued stewardship of our community, and note that this proposed budget continues some of the basic commitments that I believe we share. To be fiscally responsible. To be compassionate. To make wise investments in our future. And to be bold in reaching for a better future for the next generations. As a poet has said, “our reach should exceed our grasp.” 


As we begin together, I hope you’ll join with me and express our thanks to the outstanding people of our city government, from front-line staff to department heads, who labor diligently every day, collectively working 24/7/365 to keep Bloomington functioning and thriving. I want to thank as well all the community members who participate in the budget process, through boards and commissions, through comments directly to the administration and the council, and through these broadcasts, live or recorded on CATS. All of these folks have helped frame this budget. In particular let me personally thank Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen, and Mayor’s office staff Elizabeth Karon, Paul Stahlke, and Celeste Wolfinger for help in preparing the budget to be reviewed over the next four evenings. And of course Controller Jeff Underwood and his tireless (and tired) team who continue to do outstanding work on all things financial. And let’s note that all the budget documents are available online for ongoing review and comment, at the city website.


Each of our City department heads will share specifics this week. Tonight I’ll share some major themes, in four basic sections:

  1.  First, a basic fiscal overview

  2. Next, a brief outline of the basic policies that inform and guide the budget

  3. Third, several key citywide priorities, reflected in our budget, and

  4. Fourth, Closing with some special notes 


Now let’s dive into the budget.


Section 1: Basic Fiscal Overview

First to a fiscal overview. As a reminder, we’re dealing with 15 departments in the administration, with about 850 employees. This includes 3 departments with varying structural relationships to the city proper: City of Bloomington Utilities, Bloomington Transit, and Bloomington Housing Authority).


For the 15 departments, we’re presenting a total operating budget of about $170 million to be reviewed over the next four evenings, including $47 million from the general fund, $51 million from other revenue sources for the city, and $44 MM at CBU from its ratepayers. Another $27 MM will be presented from BT and BHA.


As we like to remember, this operating budget reflects investments to use and enhance and protect over one billion dollars worth of assets stewarded by the 15 departments, including thousands of acres of land and parks, our water reservoirs, our scores of buildings, hundreds of street lane miles and pipe miles, and sidewalk miles and path miles, thousands of fire hydrants, and 600+ vehicles and major pieces of equipment.


We are presenting a balanced budget, with cash balances and projected revenues greater than projected expenses. More than that, we continue the commitment to keep our general fund reserves at a robust 30% or more of annual operating expenses. This budget projects cash reserves at year-end of $11.9 million, keeping them above that 30% benchmark, as all four of our administration’s annual budgets have done.


To summarize revenue (with more details to come from Controller Underwood) -- property tax revenue is projected up 3.5% to $23.4 million, based on the growth in our levy (with a caveat about property caps later). For local income taxes, we’ve conservatively assumed $11.9 million in Local Income Tax (LIT) and another $5.3 million in Public Safety LIT for 2020, or about $17 million in total LIT, an increase of about 5% this year. Other major sources include fees and transfers from our own operations and from state and federal government.


You will hear many more specific financial details in the coming hours and days. 


To close this section, I’ll note that Capital investments are of course fundamental as well, and significant, but generally not as fully reflected in the annual operating budget process, given some of the sources include Tax Increment Financing and proceeds of debt issuance. We have included in the budget a 10-year outline of Public Safety LIT capital needs, and the 2020 budget presentations do include all annual capital budgets for the departments as part of their operating budgets.


Section 2. Policies, principles guiding budget

Turning to the second major section, let’s consider several key principles undergirding the budget.  

  • First, invest in our people: Our government belongs to the people, and it is run and operated 24/7, 365 days a year, by our people, our 850 regular employees (and hundreds of seasonal employees as well). They are our most precious resource, and we continue to focus on supporting all our employees in this budget. 

    • The 2020 budget continues to increase our investment in training and certifications for our people. When I took office, approximately one half of one percent of payroll was budgeted for training and education. With your support, we have been increasing that investment in our people every year, and the 2020 budget number is 1.8% or more than triple what it was 4 years ago. I firmly believe that building skills and capacities are a great investment.

    • In addition, as you know together we have fully implemented the $15 minimum wage for every regular full and part-time employee of city government, and with this 2020 budget, we will fully implement a living wage for all seasonal employees. This too is the right thing to do, to be an employer that provides decent and living wages as well as robust benefits to all our regular employees.

    • As you’ll hear from Director of Human Resources Shaw shortly, we are proposing 12 new regular employee positions for 2020, commensurate with population growth and reflecting priorities for future activities: 5 at Utilities, 2 each at Police and Parks, and one each at Public Works, Legal, and Economic and Sustainable Development. 

    • And, as you know, last year we began implementing the first salary survey conducted in 20 years, comparing our employees to similar employees around the state and region, and those adjustments, steered particularly toward under-compensated low- and middle-income employees, are fully implemented in the 2020 budget.

  • A Focus on Transparency, Accountability, and Engagement is another principle. This year, we continue to refine the activity-based budget that replaces the traditional line-item or category-based budget.  

    • This budget marks our full implementation of the activity-based budget by adding “population served” to each program or activity. We organize the entire budget around key activities, like fire prevention or long-range planning or street repaving, rather than lumping together budget categories like personnel costs or equipment costs not separated by activity. We believe this kind of budget is far more transparent, as it aligns funding both with activities and outcomes. This lets the public, and you, first, compare how much we’re investing in various activities, to better ensure our values are reflected in our budget; and second, compare how performance matches the goals, to hold ourselves accountable to results. (Check out the website for the mid-year 2019 report on performance goals and results.)

    • This commitment to transparency, accountability, and engagement guides all of our operations at the City.  It’s why we make over 3,500 documents relating to city governance available on our website, from resolutions and ordinances, to the board and commission meeting minutes, to nearly 200 data sets about our community -- available at B-Clear, Bloomington Revealed. It’s why I’m asking again for support for Youth Participatory Budgeting, to engage young residents in the details of investing in our community. It’s why this year we conducted our second Bloomington Community Survey, to measure resident opinions about service delivery satisfaction and quality of life issues; and why we invite residents to weigh in on scooters, composting, and volunteering, among other topics, using the periodic PolCo surveys.  It’s why we continue to invite residents to share opinions, ideas, and feedback about the Farmers Market, for example, using an online form. We believe that the 2020 budget sets a new standard of transparency, accountability, and engagement for us all.

  • Another guiding budget principle is to Regularly Review Efficiency: We’re continuing with formal, in-depth, third-party organizational assessments for our departments. We completed four in 2018, are implementing those and conducting five more in 2019, and we plan in 2020 to complete assessments of the final departments. These reviews help us organize and streamline our work within city government, and frankly deserve a full council briefing on their own.

  • We also as a guiding principle want to Get the Basics Right, which means: be good stewards of resources, protect against downturns with healthy reserves, invest in the maintenance and upkeep and replacements of equipment and buildings as needed, and keep the basic functions of government working well -- public safety, infrastructure, affordability, amenities, and quality of life components -- so our community continues to thrive as a creative, welcoming place to live.

  • And finally, as a principle beyond Invest in our People, Be Transparent, Accountable and Engaged, Be Efficient, and Do the Basics, we should always Aim High. We need to reach far, and challenge ourselves and our community to be as inclusive, as full of opportunity, as innovative, and as ambitious as we can be.


Section 3. Citywide Priorities

Over the next four nights, fifteen department heads will present their goals and budgets to you in detail. Tonight, in this third overview section, let’s consider more broadly what we’ve done together, and what major priorities we will continue to pursue, through 2020 and our proposed budget. All to lead to a better quality of life for all people who call Bloomington home.


First note that we are nearing the end of an extraordinary period of detailed planning as a community, including the Comprehensive Plan, the Transportation Plan, the Sustainability Plan, the Parking Plan, the Transportation Demand Management plan, three Special Area plans [Switchyard, Sudbury, 3rd Street], and of course the pending Unified Development Ordinance going in front of the Plan Commission next week. Not to mention we have the Hospital Re-Use and the Convention Center planning underway. I’d like to focus on the Sustainability Plan, concluded a little less than a year ago, as a priority of responding to the global emergency of climate change.


We’ve known for decades, and are even more acutely aware in recent years, of humanity’s causes of climate change--some of it already irreversible--that threatens to make life on this planet, at the least, much more difficult for many, and perhaps make it unrecognizable and untenable. The abdication of leadership on this issue at the federal level is tragic and compels those of us in state and municipal government to step up our efforts.  


We are in year one of the City’s five-year Sustainability Action Plan, which details specific goals relating to transportation, the built environment, water, and food, among other areas, to protect the natural environment, and build equity and resilience. Goals include reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 11%, building energy usage by 20%, and per capita water usage by 20% all within four years, compared to 2016 levels. We are to develop a full climate adaptation plan by 2022. And while it is not assembled in one “activity-based” budget category, the city has spent and will spend many millions of dollars addressing climate disruption.


This year, we are pursuing that plan’s vision of Bloomington as a sustainability leader in multiple ways.  We are gathering data about greenhouse emissions and our current sustainability performance as a local government and community. We joined 15 other cities across the country -- the first cohort of “LEED for Cities” -- to develop strategies and recommendations to continue to improve our sustainability as a community. (City Hall was recognized as LEED Gold, the highest level of building performance.) We keep expanding Solarize Bloomington. And our employee composting drop-off sites. We are strengthening local food with a new grant for the City's first Local Food Coordinator to study issues of fresh food access and availability. We continue to invest heavily in the non-auto infrastructure of trails and paths and mobility planning, and consolidating parking into much more efficient and supportive structures.


In 2020, Bloomington will continue to collaborate with public, private and nonprofit entities to reduce waste generation and increase diversion, including with the major decision about whether and how to divert compostable waste into an energy-production facility at our wastewater plant, that could produce Compressed Natural Gas to power local vehicles such as city buses or trucks. We will work to increase the purchasing of local food by connecting growers and purchasers. And to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with more residential and commercial solar installations and improved energy efficiency. We will also be promoting alternative modes of transportation, including transit and electric vehicles. Of note, starting next quarter, our sustainability director will review and sign off, or not, on any vehicle purchases by the city government, to assure we’re doing what we should in mobility management.


Our Sustainability Action Plan is our playbook, for all our departments, and for our community. Like many cities across the country, we are outlining the game plan ahead. The administration looks forward to continuing work with the Council and our other partners to address this existential challenge. 


Beyond our responses to the crucial issue of climate disruption, many good things continue to happen for economic health in Bloomington. Our signature String of Pearls continues, with The Mill humming and nearly one year old, with Switchyard Park opening in less than 3 months, and with planning for the Hospital site re-use and convention center expansion continuing actively. We see employers large and small growing and adding jobs, as we work with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, our education partners, and others, to assure a vibrant healthy job market. This budget continues our pioneering investments in arts and culture and amenities for a high quality of life. 


But we all know our community is home to uneven prosperity. Too many live in poverty. Homelessness is too high. Substance Use Disorder continues to wreak havoc in our families and our community. In 2020, I am asking the Economic and Sustainability Department to reconvene a new Wage Growth Taskforce, which first met in 2016 to recommend new steps to improve the performance and the equity of our economy. You’ll recall one of their five earlier recommendations was to invest in quality preschool care, which together we have done for the past two years, and I ask again for the support in the 2020 budget. We will continue the efforts of the Community Coordinating Committee which resulted from the Safety, Civility and Justice taskforce, to monitor data and coordinate our responses to homelessness, substance use disorder, and more. We will continue the successful program between Parks, Public Works, and Centerstone to offer city jobs and career advancement to individuals experiencing mental illness and/or homelessness.


And certainly, another aspect of creating a more equitable economy and community is improving the affordability of housing for our residents. That intensive effort has seen over 800 bedrooms of affordable housing created or preserved for the long term in the past 3 ½ years. Last Friday we cut the ribbon on B-Line Heights, 34 new affordable workforce apartments open in the heart of the Trades District. We recently garnered a $2.4 million commitment to the Affordable Housing Fund from Collegiate Development Group in connection with their student housing project proposed on north Walnut Street. We announced the exciting Osage Place next to Switchyard Park with Habitat for Humanity. Construction and support of affordable and workforce units are happening with downtown’s Morton Row and Alleyworks, and north on Crescent Street. You’ll see the 2020 budget asks for an allocation of $1.2 million in the Affordable Housing Fund to continue this progress. And the new Unified Development Ordinance will be a critical engine of support for more affordability for more of our residents.


On the fundamental issue of Public Safety, the 2020 budget continues our strategic investments in staffing, equipment, training, and innovation. We’re proposing two new officers in the Police Department, to accommodate our growing population and demands on our officers. We’re proposing to invest over $3 million in equipment and capital for public safety in 2020. We celebrate the national accreditation of our Police Department and the consideration of our Fire Department for the same. We commit again significantly to exceed the state and national expectations for the training of our public safety employees. And we continue to innovate with new approaches like the quick response vehicle in the Fire Department, and collaboration with the wider community on developing a “crisis diversion center,” to help replace incarceration with diversion and assistance when possible.


And finally, in terms of priorities, we always work on getting more efficient in our operations. In 2020 we will be implementing two major automation efforts with Community Development and Document Management software packages, to modernize everything from planning and engineering to digitizing virtually all of our operations still paper-based. Our sanitation system continues to upgrade with software and custom data to enhance services. We’re replacing 25,000 water meters with automated models. We’re using TransMap to prioritize maintenance and upgrades of streets, sidewalks, signs and more. And using 10-hour shift days to be more efficient in our street work. We’re analyzing more and more data to find areas for improvement. We’re joining the conference of Big 10 city managers, to learn from our peers. We’re using our biannual city survey to find pain points and priority areas. We’re ready to open a new park with exceptional new amenities. Hope to see you there on November 1st!


Section 4. Special Notes    


In closing, I’ll share brief teasers about three upcoming special efforts.


First, CDFI-Friendly Bloomington, the non-profit formed late last year, can become an important partner to address local challenges of affordable housing, and community facilities like health clinics or fresh food stores and non-traditional entrepreneurs who need capital to succeed. CDFIs are mission-driven financial institutions that help banks and governments reach farther and accomplish more. Our CDFI-Friendly Bloomington has been capitalized with $4 million dollars split between public and private sources, with help from banks, our Community Foundation, and the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association and the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission. Bank of America has offered an additional $10 million in low-cost financing to accelerate the effort. Look for great partnerships in 2020.


Second, I’m directing our public safety officials to explore programs and incentives for 2020 to increase the number of our police and fire front line staff who live in our city. The closer our employees are to our community the better -- making personal connections, spending time in neighborhood playgrounds and ball fields, shops, schools, and places of worship. Being on the PTOs or serving as coaches and mentors. There can be challenges for current front line employees to do so, so I’m directing our leadership to explore what programs and incentives have been used in other communities, and what might fit Bloomington best, whether housing supports or take-home vehicles or other ideas.


Finally, I’m directing Human Resources Director Shaw to explore what we can do in 2020 to expand support for our employees with new family situations. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, protects employees of businesses of a certain size who can take up to twelve weeks of leave to care for a new child or ailing family member. How to pay for the time off is not provided for. Some companies and organizations pay for some or all of that time (I’d like to salute IU in this regard!), which contributes to a more equitable society, and jibes with City values. City government already offers 12 paid holidays and 200 hours of paid time off (or PTO) in the second year of employment (and more beyond that), quite generous in relation to most local and regional employers.  But the supply can be inadequate, and the need for caregiving rarely comes at a convenient time. That’s why I’m directing our human resources staff during the coming year to identify options and ways we can support paid family leave for City employees.


Bloomington is thriving in so many ways. Many across the country and across the globe would leap at the chance to live here. And we need to let all know that this community welcomes new ideas, new people, and new futures. We embrace diversity and inclusion, even when some among us echo disgraceful national and international rhetoric to espouse racism and divisiveness. Our 2020 budget addresses challenges and invests in our collective future. In this bicentennial year of our very special partner Indiana University, I’ll quote the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, credited with saying “if you want a great city, found a great university...and wait 200 years.” Here we are. And here we go.


I’m happy to take questions or comments and then hand off to Controller Underwood.