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City approves $90 million budget, pay raises for 2019



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Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen speaks next to Controller Jeffrey Underwood at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bloomington Common Council in City Hall. He discussed the proposed city budget in Bloomington for 2019. Kate Pasmore Buy Photos

After months of deliberation, the Bloomington city council passed the 2019 budget and raised salaries for permanent and seasonal city employees. 

Mayor John Hamilton has called the budget the city’s most important policy document, as it sets the community’s priorities.

The 2019 budget comes to a total of $91,128,597, not including city utilities or transit. 

This is a 9.1 percent increase from 2018 budget. 

Included in the budget is $800,000 for the Parks Bicentennial Bond to address quality of life issues, specifically city trails and green space. Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen said the goal is to leave a legacy for future generations.

New positions

The 2019 budget includes 14 new positions across several departments. Some of these give new roles and titles to existing positions, while others require funding for additional jobs.

Bloomington Police Department will hire two Neighborhood Resource Specialists to help improve contact between the BPD and neighborhood groups, according to the budget. Another addition is a Police Social Worker, who will work with officers and social service agencies to serve at-risk people. 

The budget provides for one additional police officer, making for 103 sworn officers total. Council member Dave Rollo said he would like to see more police officers added in future budgets to keep pace with the growing population. 

The Parking Facilities Division of the Department of Public Works will hire a Parking Services Director to help streamline city parking operations. The council approved this position, along with other changes to the city’s parking system, in September. 

The budget also creates an After-Hours Ambassador, sometimes called a night-time mayor, to serve as a liaison between the city administration and nightlife. 

The job would require no new funding, as it would take funds from the previous health services coordinator position.

While city council member Stephen Volan said he absolutely supports this role, vice-president Isabel Piedmont-Smith said she was not convinced it’s needed. She cited other pressing needs, such as the lack of public restrooms downtown, as more important. 

Pay

The council unanimously approved a 2 percent increase for police officers, fire officers and all city employees, including temporary workers. 

An ordinance passed by the city more than 10 years ago did not include seasonal employees in the requirement to be paid a living wage. The 2019 budget would bring many seasonal employees up to a living wage, projected about $13 per hour. The remainder of seasonal employees would be brought to a living wage in next year’s budget. 

In the next few months, the council will look at removing the seasonal employee exemption from the Living Wage Ordinance, Piedmont-Smith said. 

The council also unanimously adopted increases to salaries for elected officials. City council members, the mayor and the city clerk will see a 2 percent raise in 2019, alongside other city staff. 

The council president and vice-president would receive additional salary increases of $1,000 and $800. 

“It is a lot of extra work,” vice-president Piedmont-Smith said. “It does take a lot of extra time.”

The Parks and Recreation Department secured an increase in salaries for seasonal employees, or those working 40 hours per week for 9 months, according to the budget. 

In the 2018 budget, seasonal wages increased from $9.73 an hour to $14.74 an hour. Recruiting, hiring and retaining seasonal staff has been successful with the pay raise, according to the budget.

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