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Recover Forward Bloomington is a multi-year initiative to help our community rebound and thrive, moving toward more racial, economic, and climate justice as we do.

 

Page last updated on October 15, 2020, at 11:35 a.m.

 

 

 

 

What is Recover Forward?

Recover Forward is Mayor John Hamilton’s plan for Bloomington’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic collapse. Launched in July 2020, Recover Forward seeks not only to repair Bloomington but to renew it. Rather than restoring a pre-pandemic normal, Recover Forward seeks to lean into a future that is more consistent with our values. Recover Forward will rebuild Bloomington in a way that more thoroughly embodies our community’s goals for racial equity, a sustainable and resilient economy, and climate action.  

 

Racial Justice

Bloomington’s recovery into the community we envision requires that we confront racism, discrimination, and intolerance and invest in ways to cultivate equity and inclusion. Recovering Forward toward racial equity will involve reviewing, reconsidering, and refreshing processes, programs, plans, and purchases across City government.  

 

Economic Justice

To Recover Forward, Bloomington must foster a sustainable, resilient, and equitable economy. The plan seeks to stimulate, strengthen, and diversify the local economy, attract employers, grow jobs and wages for those of different qualifications, and build resiliency and equity. Bloomington’s bright future is a place where all residents thrive, with meaningful work, competitive wages, adequate housing, and a high quality of life.

 

Climate Justice

As the community rebuilds from the public health and economic crises, the recovery model must foreground environmental sustainability and climate justice. While human health and finances have taken center stage during the COVID-19 crisis, the climate emergency has not retreated. Recover Forward integrates Bloomington’s actions to prepare for and mitigate the effects of global climate change into a comprehensive plan for heightened resilience.

 

 

 

Phase One

 

The Bloomington Common Council approved reallocating $2 million of 2019 reversion funds on August 12, as the first in a multi-phase strategy to help the community rebound and thrive in the face of concurrent crises. Projects in the first phase of Recover Forward are beginning in the next several weeks, including expanding access to jobs through training/education, housing, transportation options, renewable energy, social services, food, the arts, and the internet.  State approval of the funding allocation for these Recover Forward Phase One projects is expected during the week of August 31. 

 

The following Phase One projects are underway:  

  • Code School: $100K
  • Affordable Home Ownership: $450K (Downpayment Assistance: $100K and Shared Appreciation Home Ownership, 2nd Mortgage Assistance: $350K)
  • Sidewalk and Path Enhancements: $400K
  • Sidewalk/Path Improvements for BT Stops: $250K
  • Jack Hopkins: $200K
  • Net New Job Incentives (to Small Businesses and Organizations): $375K
  • Life Sciences Support: $50K
  • Energy Efficiency—Commercial & Residential Improvements: $250K
  • Farm Stop: $75K (initial investment)
  • Arts Community: $100K–Click here
  • Digital Equity: $35K

 

Click here for details about each project.

 

September 3: Applications Sought for Recover Forward Arts Grants–Click here.
August 5: Proposed Recover Forward Stimulus Plan–Click here.

 

 

 

Phase Two

 

The passage of the 2021 budget, which was first presented to council during the week of August 17, will mark the second phase of the Recover Forward plan, with a reallocation of $4 million of City reserves among departments to protect basic services during this challenging time and advance projects to increase racial, economic, and climate justice. Click here for the Mayor's FY2021 Budget Overview. Below you have the option of watching the full City Council meetings or watching the presentations of specific departments. 

 

FY2021 Budget Presentations

Overview by Mayor Hamilton on August 17–Click here.

FY2021 Full Budget Proposal–Click here.

2021 Org Charts–Click here.

 

October 14: Mayor Hamilton's Remarks to City Council on 2021 Budget–Click here.

September 9: Written Budget Questions/Answers to City Council Questions–Click here.

 

August 20: Department of Public Works Presentation–Click here.

August 20: Engineering Presentation–Click here.

August 20: Planning & Transportation Presentation–Click here.

August 20: Utilities Presentation–Click here.

August 20: Full Budget Presentation Meeting–Click here.

August 20: All August 20 Budget Slides–Click here.

 

August 19: Parks & Recreation Presentation–Click here.

August 19: Community & Family Resources Department Presentation–Click here.

August 19: Economic & Sustainable Development Presentation–Click here.

August 19: HAND Presentation–Click here.

August 19: Bloomington Transit Presentation–Click here.

August 19: Full Budget Presentation Meeting–Click here.

August 19: All August 19 Budget Slides–Click here.

 

August 18: Bloomington Fire Department Presentation–Click here.

August 18: Bloomington Police Department Presentation–Click here.

August 18: Full Budget Presentation Meeting–Click here.

August 18: All August 18 Budget Slides–Click here.

 

August 17: Office of the Mayor Presentation–Click here.

August 17: Controller Office Presentation–Click here.

August 17: Council Office Presentation–Click here.

August 17: ITS Presentation–Click here.

August 17: City Clerk Presentation–Click here.

August 17: Legal Department Presentation–Click here.

August 17: Human Resources and Compensation/Benefits Presentation–Click here.

August 17: Full Budget Presentation Meeting–Click here.

August 17: All August 17 Budget Slides–Click here.

 

 

 

Phase 3

 

Mayor John Hamilton has asked the Bloomington Common Council to consider Resolution 20-13, proposing an ordinance to increase the Monroe County Local Income Tax (LIT) by 0.25% for the purpose of economic development. The proposed LIT increase represents the third phase of the mayor’s Recover Forward initiative to facilitate Bloomington’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while expanding economic, racial, and climate justice in the long term.

In his recent editorial in the Herald Times, the mayor explains why these economically strained times are the very time to increase revenue for public services.

On September 9, Mayor Hamilton gave remarks to City Council on the proposed ED-LIT. Click here to read his remarks and to view the presentation.

 

Mayor Video Thumbnail

Click the image above to view Mayor Hamilton's message.

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What are the community’s biggest challenges for the next 5 years?

Reduced tax revenues to provide services

Job losses in many sectors of the economy

Small business loss--especially in the tourism sector and the arts and entertainment sector

Increased pressure on social service network since March of 2020

Shortage of affordable housing

Ongoing need to eliminate/mitigate/diminish long standing racial inequities

Ongoing mitigation of and adaptation to climate emergency 

 

 

How as the COVID pandemic increased these challenges?

  • The COVID pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in our system.
  • We are seeing a local economic weakness due to our reliance on tourism based revenue streams related to IU and our region’s attractions (parks, restaurants, cultural events, etc…)
  • The crisis has thrust thousands of residents into unemployment and placed a tremendous burden on our social service network.  
  • Nationally, and locally, the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color, because of longstanding racial inequities that have resulted in conditions leading to greater exposure to viral transmission through employment or housing, discrimination within the healthcare system, and reduced health outcomes over generations.  
  • It’s also important to note that COVID has hit lower income households harder. With the lifting of eviction and utility shut off moratoriums, and without significant interventions, those households without resources will be faced with difficult choices 
  • The pandemic has had a devastating effect on small businesses (especially those in the restaurant and retail sector) and incurred widespread layoffs and hiring freezes, potentially chilling the local economy.  
  • Reduced tax revenues make it more difficult for local governments to provide services without significant service reductions.

 

 

How is city government cutting back in these tough economic times?

Reducing investments in outside contractors, equipment replacements

Adding only one new position to city government, despite continued growth in demand for staff

Postponing capital and maintenance investments

Not making needed upgrades to two city cemeteries

Postponing planned expanded paid family leave

No investments in public safety employees living in the city

No convention center investments. 

 


 

What options are there to address these challenges?

Unfortunately, a local government does not have many options available to address challenges at the scale of the pandemic and its aftermath. The State of Indiana has capped the ability of local governments to raise property taxes, a wealth tax is not permissible under state law, and generally the state determines other tax levels. Thus, other than looking for efficiencies in the local government budget and cutting back services, a  local income tax is the only practical way to generate new local revenue. 

 

 

What is a LIT? 

The Local Income Tax or “LIT” is authorized in the Indiana Code at I.C. 6-3.6-1, et seq. The LIT is one of the few revenue sources beyond the state property tax allocations that is made available to local government units to help fund their operations. This tax is applied to the Indiana Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of the residents of a county that has imposed the tax. The Maximum Rate is 2.5% with a few exceptions. The LIT has three separate components: Certified Shares, Economic Development (EDIT) and Public Safety (PS LIT). Every local government unit in a county except for schools receives a portion of the Certified Shares funds based on a State formula. These funds can be used for the units’ general purposes. Only the county, cities and towns receive PS LIT and EDIT funds. 

 

The EDIT was authorized as an option by the Indiana legislature in the late 1980s for the purpose of funding local economic development projects that increase employment opportunities and/or attract or retain businesses. The law was later amended and EDIT revenues may now be used for any local government purpose, not just economic development. As of November 2019, 73 of Indiana’s 92 counties have an EDIT. Monroe County currently has only Certified Shares and Public Safety taxes.

 

How much money will this tax increase raise?

$8M generated annually divided roughly:

$200K Ellettsville

$4M County

$4M Bloomington

 

 

How Income Tax is Collected, Calculated & Distributed 

Collections – Income tax collections on the State level are based on a fiscal year collections cycle. For example, the taxes collected from July 2019 - June 2020 (with the exception of this years’ collection cycle being extended to August 31, 2020 per the Governor’s COVID Order) will be distributed in 2021. If a county enacts a new income tax before November 1st, 2020 that county will begin receiving income tax distribution for that new tax in January of 2021. Even though taxpayers don’t begin paying that additional tax until January 2021 the State will “front” the distribution money for that county. 

Calculation – There are a few different calculations to determine the allocation amount to each unit within the county. For certified shares the calculation is as follows: 

• Allocation Amount = prior year levy – post-2005 debt levies + prior year certified shares distribution + welfare allocation + fire territory adjustment. (IC 6-3.6-6-12) 

• For public safety the allocation amount is equal to the prior year levy. (IC 6-3.6-6-8) 

• For economic development the allocation amount can be based prior year levy + welfare allocation or population. (IC 6-3.6-6-8.5) 

Distribution – Unit-level distribution occurs on a monthly basis. The amount each unit receives is determined by the unit’s allocation amount divided by the total allocation amount of all units that receive the income tax for a given county. Certified shares are distributed to all units within the county except for schools, solid waste district and conservancy district. The only units that receive public safety are cities, counties and towns (after PSAP has been distributed). Likewise, only counties, cities and towns receive economic development. 

 

 

What is the effective date of tax rate adjustment? 

The ordinance adoption date determines when the ordinance will become effective. If the ordinance is adopted prior to November 1st, then it will be effective at the beginning of the next year and the eligible units should start receiving the income tax distribution at the same time.

 


 

What would happen if the LIT didn’t pass?

Bloomington would be faced with significant challenges in the coming years meeting our current level of services and continuing to move forward on economic, racial and environmental justice endeavors.

 

 

Why are you proposing this now?

While requesting a tax increase is always a difficult choice, an increase is essential if we are to be proactive about rebuilding our community from this downturn in a way that better incorporates our goals for economic, racial and climate justice. It’s important to remember that we here in Monroe County have among the lowest tax rates in the area. Even with this slight additional tax we would remain sixth out of the seven surrounding counties, and a low tax county in Indiana overall, while the return on the investment would be significant, especially for those who need it most. 

The state legislature may well reduce or eliminate a municipality’s ability to accomplish new revenues by next Spring (they already changed the voting requirements earlier this year) potentially making this a  “now or never” opportunity for us to use this tool while we have it.

 

 

This seems to be happening fast. What’s the hurry?

The needs are urgent and the sooner the LIT is approved the sooner we will have resources available to address our community’s needs. We also anticipate that the state legislature may continue to make changes to the way local governments can raise revenues to meet local needs, so a timely approval of the LIT will better equip us to manage our recovery. 

 

 

How much will this increase my taxes? 

A Local Income Tax (LIT) is a way for residents to support vital services where they live and work through an income tax paid through the state. The increased proposed is a 0.25 percentage point increase to the existing county-wide income tax. Our current rate is 1.345% paid on state taxable income, and this proposal would raise it to 1.595%. For households:

  •   with taxable annual income of $30,000, the increased amount is $75 per year
  •   with taxable annual income of $80,000, the increased amount is $200 per year

 

 

I’ve heard people argue this is “taxation without representation.” Is that true?

No. The County's Tax Council (made up of the fiscal bodies of the County, Cities & Towns) is designated in each county with the authority to impose a local income tax. Every member of each county fiscal body, like every City Council member, has representation on the LIT Board and each gets to vote on a proposed tax, with proportional voting power. A total number of 100 votes is allocated based on the population of each of the fiscal bodies within that county, as follows: 

Each of 9 City Council members: 6.48 votes

Each of 7 County Council members: 5.28 votes

Each of 5 Ellettsville Council members: 0.92 votes

Each of 3 Stinesville Council members: 0.14 votes

 

Any combination of affirmative votes adding to more than 50 (out of a total of 100 possible votes) determines the outcome of any LIT council vote on a proposal.

 

 

How will this money be used to help Bloomington recover from the COVID pandemic?

City government has a responsibility to Bloomington’s future even as we seek immediately to repair the damage wrought by the COVID pandemic. The revenues generated by the proposed Local Income Tax are needed not only to compensate for the current downfall, but to build the City back in a way that ensures long-term and widely distributed well-being and resiliency.  Proposed investments, which are specified below, will build toward this stronger, more just, and more sustainable future by increasing access to jobs, housing, social services, transportation options, quality of life, and more.

 

 

How will this tax be used to improve climate justice and foster sustainable quality of life?

 

There are many opportunities, including but not limited to:

  • LED replacements of all street lights
  • Subsidies for energy conservation investments in homes and businesses 
  • Sidewalk & Path Enhancements to improve non-auto options
  • Sidewalk & Path Improvements for BT Stops, improving accessibility and access
  • Transportation Demand Management Program, to reduce single-passenger auto trips
  • Local Agriculture Support
  • Expanded commercial and residential composting options
  • Impervious surface replacement incentives for homes/businesses
  • Prioritizing tree canopy in underserved areas -- grants for nonprofits, businesses, or community spaces  
  • Third-party energy audits of homes (not from electric/gas companies)
  • Home weatherization grants/loans 
  • Residential solar financing assistance through grants/loans
  • Residential green infrastructure and native landscaping grants/loans
  • Commercial kitchen for value-adds to local food products
  • Addition of fruit trees, pollinator trees, climate resilient trees to urban forest
  • Addition of more community gardens, with costs paid on a sliding scale
  • Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure (added protection for bike lanes, increased bike lanes, more covered bike parking)
  • Universal recycling coverage
  • Water-use audit of home
  • Grant/loans for improvements of lead pipe replacement/water efficiency
  • High-heat impact assessments and mitigation for vulnerable residents
  • Grants to farmers or food-distribution organizations to get or give fresh food to Hoosier Hills

 

 

How will this tax be used to improve racial justice and enhance social equity?

Opportunities include but are not limited to:

  • Prioritizing tree canopy in underserved areas -- grants for nonprofits, businesses, or community spaces  
  • Making grants/loans for improvements of lead pipe replacement/water efficiency
  • Offering high-heat impact assessments and mitigation for vulnerable residents
  • Making grants to farmers or food-distribution organizations to partner with Hoosier Hills Food Bank to make fresh, local food more accessible to low-income residents
  • Expanding services to people experiencing homelessness
  • Offering down payment assistance
  • Offering second mortgage assistance
  • Creating Net New Job Incentive for Small Businesses
  • Creating training for employment in Life Sciences industry
  • Expanding Jack Hopkins Social Services grants program
  • Expanding Digital Equity 
  • Investing in paramedicine preventive care through Fire Department

 

 

How will this tax be used to improve economic justice?

Opportunities include but are not limited to:

  • Subsidies for energy conservation investments 
  • Local Agriculture Support
  • Sidewalk & Path Improvements for BT Stops
  • Transportation Demand Management Program
  • Sidewalk & Path Enhancements
  • Child Care Support
  • Subsidized downtown parking for low-wage downtown workers?
  • Arts Community
  • Third-party energy audits of homes (not from electric/gas companies)
  • Home weatherization grants/loans 
  • Residential solar financing assistance through grants/loans
  • Residential green infrastructure and native landscaping grants/loans
  • Commercial kitchen for value-adds to local food products
  • Add street trees which are fruit trees and/or pollinator trees/climate resilient trees
  • Add more community gardens, with costs paid on a sliding scale
  • Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure (added protection for bike lanes, increased bike lanes, more covered bike parking)
  • Universal recycling coverage
  • Water-use audit of home
  • Grant/loans for improvements of lead pipe replacement/water efficiency
  • High-heat impact assessments and mitigation for vulnerable residents
  • Community Center
  • Grants to farmers or food-distribution organizations to get or give fresh food to Hoosier Hills
  • Services to people experiencing homelessness
  • Down payment assistance
  • Second mortgage assistance
  • Net New Job Incentive for Small Businesses
  • Training for employment in Life Sciences industry
  • Expanding Jack Hopkins Social Services grants program
  • Expanding Digital Equity 
  • Paramedicine preventive care through Fire Department

 

 

Won’t the state or federal government provide funding to help us recover?

So far much of the COVID-related relief from the state and federal governments has been targeted to businesses and individuals. Local governments have been challenged to continue to provide the same level of services with tax revenues that are steeply trending downward.

 

 

How does our tax rate compare to other communities?

Historically, Monroe County has among the lowest tax rates in the region. In comparison with the seven counties surrounding us, Monroe County has the lowest local income tax rate. Click on the interactive map at https://www.in.gov/dor/business-tax/county-tax-information/ to see our county’s income tax rates relative to our neighbors’.  If we raise our local income tax by 0.25%, in order to invest in racial, economic and climate justice, we’ll be the sixth lowest, instead of the seventh lowest.  Owen County, the only adjacent county that would be lower than us after our proposed 0.25% LIT increase, is working to pass a 0.2% plus an additional 0.25 to 0.5 or so after that. Leaving us the lowest of all even after our proposed increase. Compare tax rates of all 92 Indiana counties at this chart: https://secure.in.gov/dor/files/dn01.pdf). Monroe County’s rate ranks 21st from the lowest in the state.

And it’s important to know that, among Indiana’s 20 largest cities, we in Bloomington are also a very low-tax city. Specifically, we are in the lowest quartile of those cities both for property tax rates and local income tax rates.

 

Region LIT rates

 

Largest Cities Taxes


 

 

 

 

Additional Resources

 

Speeches & Remarks

September 9: Mayor Hamilton Remarks to City Council about Proposed ED-LIT–Click here.

August 17: FY2021 Budget Overview–Click here.

July 27: Mayor Hamilton Speaks to Press Club about Recover Forward–Click here.

July 16: Mayor Hamilton Recover Forward Public Address–Click here.

 

Panel Discussions

August 12: Toward Sustainable Quality of Life Panel Discussion on Facebook Live–Click here.

August 5: Economic Justice Panel Discussion on Facebook Live–Click here.

July 30: Racial Justice Panel Discussion on Facebook Live–Click here.

 

Supporting Documents

August 5: Digital Equity Study–Click here.

August 4: Housing Study–Click here.

 

 

Press Releases

September 4: City Council to Consider Local Income Tax Increase–Click here.

August 25: City Funds "Recover Forward" Projects–Click here.

July 15: Mayor Hamilton to Propose Recovering Forward–Click here.