Indiana Daily Student

The Bloomington City Council has started the budget process. Here’s where we are.

The Bloomington City Council debated Mayor John Hamilton’s 2022 budget proposals for each government department Aug. 23--26.

His proposed budget, totaling $179 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year, includes funds from both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Hamilton addressed two large challenges: inclusion and sustainability. 

“We must sustain the basics, being able to practically and efficiently provide what people need and expect from city government, and we must try to reach farther, aim higher toward the future,” Hamilton said.

After each of the department budget hearings last week, the council gave recommendations signaling whether the budget should pass when it comes to a final vote. 

The council normally introduces and discusses budget related legislation in September with final votes in October.

Notable departments from Hamilton’s 2022 budget proposal include the police department, human resource department, and Bloomington Transit. 

Police Department

The Bloomington Police Department requested almost $20.2 million, which is a 9% increase from last year, BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff said.

Most of the additional money requested by the department was for personnel. According to the presentation given to the council, BPD wants to fill the remaining sworn officer positions in 2022. Currently the quota is 105 sworn officers. Only 93 sworn officers have been hired and 76 of those are readily available for dispatch.

Sworn officers are those who have arresting power and wear a badge. For example, if one were to get pulled over for speeding, it would likely be by a sworn officer. 

Diekhoff said BPD’s goals for 2022 include increasing the community’s sense of safety, analyzing crime data, adjusting the central emergency dispatch and improving the records division.

Multiple council members voiced concerns regarding sworn officers and community service specialists. 

Some of the concerns surrounded a lack of competitive salary, issues with hiring and retention, and the use of community service specialists during the BPD budget conversations. Multiple council members questioned the need for additional community service specialists when the quota for sworn officers hasn’t been met. 

“In my mind, the crux of the issue is the number of officers are active and able to serve our community,” Smith said. “It worries me that the stress in the system that right now the officers are doing mandatory overtime and they don’t seem to have enough staff.”

No council members signaled their support for the police budget request. Five council members abstained from the recommendation vote and three voted no. 

Economic and Sustainable Development Department

Director Alex Crowley proposed a $1.1 million total budget for the department, a 48% decrease from 2021.

Crowley said the proposed budget funds arts and culture venues, sustainable development, business relations and development and major economic development projects.

“We will only double down and reinvest in programs that are proving successful,” Crowley said.

The budget decrease largely comes from a lack of funding the department received the year prior. This funding was a part of the city’s “Recover Forward” initiative.

The request was met with opposition on the council. Five members voted against it. Three council members signaled support for the budget request, with one abstention.

Human Resources Department

The Human Resources Department requested almost $883,000 for 2022, a 14% increase from 2020.

The administration is implementing paid family medical leave and a cost of living adjustment for all employees in the department. The department said this will cost almost $750,000. 

Employee training software would require more than $135,000 and supplies an estimated $2,360.

Three members of the council voted yes, five members abstained, with councilmember Stephen Volan being the only “no” vote. 

Bloomington Transit

Bloomington Transit is requesting a 4% increase from last year’s budget, resulting in $15.1 million for the 2022 fiscal year.

General Manager Lew May’s presentation addressed the department's goals, including developments in climate change and the environment by replacing four current hybrid buses with electric buses, customer service and small capital projects. 

Part of Bloomington Transit's budget request was a more than $6.5 million appropriation for staff. This includes salaries for employees, as well as benefits.

The budget was largely supported, with Council members Matt Flaherty and Kate Rosenbarger abstaining.

Parks and Recreation Department

Director Paula McDevitt requested a 15% increase in funding, totaling $9.7 million.

Additional funding would be allocated toward community relations improvements, department operations, landscaping, maintenance of cemeteries, urban forestry maintenance, natural resources, Banneker Community Center operation and community events.

The council signaled some disagreement on the budget. Four members voted yes, with Volan, Rosenbarger and council member Matt Flaherty voting no and council member Dave Rollo and council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith abstaining.

City Council Office

The City Council Office requested a total of $1.3 million, a 22% decrease from last year. The decrease largely comes from the defunding for a one-time program that was part of the city’s ‘Recover Forward’ initiative.

The budget goals presented by council administrator and attorney Stephen Lucas included improvements to department organization, continuing to use Zoom and purchasing document management software. 

Lucas suggested funding ways to make the council documents easier to access and improved policy coordination between the council and the Office of the Mayor.

Lucas said approximately $317,000 would go to some of the current, standing council committees. 

Lucas said another goal for the department in the new fiscal year is to be more cooperative and transparent with residents.

The vote on the 2022 proposed city council budget gained the favor of a majority of council members with two abstaining and councilmember Kate Rosenbarger voting no.

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