Solid Waste District CAC Members Discuss Anaerobic Digesters

Members of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District (MCSWMD) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) have recently been researching anaerobic digesters and their potential both to reduce the volume and emissions of organic materials going to landfill, but also as a source of renewable energy.

In short, anaerobic digestion is “the process where plant and animal material (biomass) is converted into useful products by micro-organisms in the absence of air. This biomass can be unwanted ‘wastes’, such as slurry or leftover food, or crops grown specifically for feeding the digester.”  The outputs from the digestion process are biogas (which can be burned as fuel) and digestate, which can be used as fertilizer and plant nutrient. (Source: NNFCC Renewable Fuels and Energy Factsheet Anaerobic Digestion Nov 11).

Traditionally, anaerobic digestion has been used mainly as a waste management technology for industrial agricultural operations. However, the technology is seeing increasing use in municipal applications, and the energy generation through biogas, originally merely a side-effect of the process, is becoming in and of itself a reason to implement the system (though efficiencies are still relatively low compared to other power generation technologies).

CAC members Steve Akers and Dave Parsons (also a member of the newly-created Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission), along with District Executive Director Larry Barker attended the BioCycle 11th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling in Madison, WI in October, and brought back some information about anaerobic digestion. Akers and Parsons presented some of the topics they learned about to other CAC members at the December meeting (see the MCSWMD Citizens Advisory Committee Minutes for 2011-12-01 for a nice synopsis, and their slides are available here).

I suspect we will be hearing quite a bit more about anaerobic digestion in the near future, as it would seem to plan an integral role in fulfilling a vision of Monroe County as a zero-waste community.

Tasus Tax Abatement Application Receives Positive Recommendation from EDC

This evening, the Monroe County Economic Development Commission (EDC) voted 3-0 to recommend that the Monroe County Council grant a tax abatement to TASUS Corporation. Tax abatements are always a controversial subject, and I hope to blog about them frequently in the months to come — but I wanted to use this opportunity to talk a bit about the process and the various bodies that are responsible for considering and approving (or rejecting) an application for a tax abatement.

Continue reading “Tasus Tax Abatement Application Receives Positive Recommendation from EDC”

Local Income Taxes

For my first couple of postings, I will be writing about some of the data from the newly available Indiana Handbook of Taxes, Revenues, and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 (yeah, I know, great bedtime reading).

In Indiana, 91 of 92 counties (with Lake County as the only exception) have local option income tax rates that are used to fund the various units of local government (counties, cities and towns, townships, public libraries, and some other special taxing units). Currently, there are 6 different forms of local option income taxes available to local governments (and are only available in certain combinations and at certain rates). I’ll probably wind up talking in more detail about each of them, but in short, they are:

  • County Option Income Tax (COIT) — this is the only income tax rate that Monroe County uses
  • County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT)
  • County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT)
  • LOIT to Freeze Property Tax Levy
  • LOIT for Property Tax Relief
  • LOIT for Public Safety (requires one of the other two LOIT options to be adopted as well)
The following excerpt from the Handbook of Taxes, Revenues, and Appropriations (Indiana LOIT Rates 2011-2012) shows the total income tax rates for all 91 counties in Indiana that have local income taxes. Monroe County’s rate is 1.05%, which is on the low side compared to other counties (65 counties have higher income tax rates than we do).
The 1.05% income tax rate is actually divided into two rates: the base COIT rate of 1% and a special COIT rate of 0.05% that is dedicated to juvenile treatment and services. The 1% base rate is divided up among the following taxing units (the formula for dividing up the income tax among the units definitely a subject for another post!):
  • Monroe County
  • Cities and Towns (Bloomington, Ellettsville, and Stinesville)
  • Townships (Benton, Bloomington, Perry, Richland, Bean Blossom, Van Buren, Polk, Indian Creek, Clear Creek, Salt Creek, Washington)
  • Monroe County Public Library
  • Bloomington Transportation (the city bus service)
  • Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District
The 0.05%, often referred to as the “Juvenile COIT”, is used to fund the Monroe County youth shelter, as well as several juvenile probation officers, all at the county level.
I’ll talk in the next posting about how much revenue these income tax rates represent to local governments.

Welcome to IN53!

Welcome to IN53, the blog about local government in Monroe County, Indiana. The purpose of this blog is to share information, documents, and thoughts about local government here, with a particular emphasis on financial issues — taxation, budgets and appropriations, and economic development. I intend to be relatively light on the editorializing in my posts, emphasizing education over argument — but I can’t promise to be completely unbiased.

I have been thinking about creating this blog for a long time, in response to the many questions about local government finance that I receive from constituents (I have been serving on the Monroe County Council as an at-large representative since 2009).  I also take great inspiration from two really great blogs – the Indiana Law Blog and Pin The Tail (created by former Monroe County Council member Sophia Travis).

But what finally gave me the kick in the pants to move forward was when I noticed that the Herald Times finally put its local government blog, GovTracker, out of its misery recently. That blog was originally created to allow the HT to distribute news briefs, meeting agendas, source documents, and other content about local government that might not be broadly interesting enough, or too long and detailed, or too fast-breaking to warrant a story in the paper. I thought that that was a great premise, and was sorry that it never really took off as much as I would have liked. Presumably the financial commitment to authoring content for the site did not generate a sufficient return for the HT. Having no such mandate to generate a profit, I thought that I would give the concept a try.

Some of the topics I plan to write about include: property taxes, Convention Center expansion and a possible food and beverage tax, TIF districts, tax abatements, local government budgets, revenue challenges, the criminal justice system, and transportation (especially non-motorized transportation).

Of course, although I understand that some of the topics I will be posting about have a rather narrow focus, I want the blog to be interesting. So if there are questions or issues, dear readers, that you would like to see discussed in this blog, please let me know.