Possible Projects to be Included in Bond

Several days ago I wrote about a $2M General Obligation Bond that the County Council was considering for 2014 to fund a number of capital projects (Council Takes First Step Towards General Obligation Bond for 2014 to Fund Infrastructure).

We have received a list of projects proposed by the Commissioners for the bond, along with cost estimates (the original document is here: Possible Bond Projects with costs 2013-09-24).

  • Showers – waterproofing the foundation, – tuck pointing, window sill repairs–$305,100
  • Technology connectivity upgrade—$176,000
  • Waterproofing Courthouse Wall-$1,000,000
  • Vehicles- 2 for the Prosecutor’s office, 2 for the probation office – $83,282 (2 AWD Equinox and 2 IMPALAS)
  • Movement of offices from One City Center to Curry, Curry to Showers and CC.
  • Voter Reg/Absentee to Community Corrections:  $50,000.
  • Archive Project- 20,000.00
  • Jail remodel for medical ward–$270,000
  • Jail control Panel-$222,000
  • Karst Ellettsville connection Trail  $100,000
  • Proximity locks Community Corrections/Fire Suppression system:  $35,000.00
  • Additional siren $25,000
  • Ambulance purchase ?$150,000
  • Solar thermal System:  $185,000.

Total cost estimates well exceed $2M, so we will be receiving soon a prioritized list.

The Council will conduct a public hearing on this bond and vote on it (including the prioritized list of projects) at its 2013-10-08 meeting.

Agenda for Tonight’s County Council Work Session (2013-09-24)

The following is the updated agenda for tonight’s County Council work session, starting at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse:



  • This is a general discussion about the proposed purchase of the Pain Real Estate building by the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission for Ivy Tech State College, to be used for its nursing program. The bond would be funded by revenues from the County’s West Side TIF district. The Council will vote at its October 10th meeting whether to send the project forward to the Redevelopment Commission for a public hearing and a final vote.


  • This item is a request from the City to fund 3 dispatchers for the joint dispatch facility for 2013. Up until mid-2012, the County used to automatically split the wireless 911 revenues 50-50 with the City of Bloomington (by statute), which paid for 3 dispatchers. When the wireless and wireline 911 revenue streams were combined under a new statute, the statute that required the County to split the wireless revenue was automatically repealed effective July 2012, and payments to the City of Bloomington for their three dispatchers ceased. However, the wireless revenues come from phone users (wireless and wireline) both from within the City of Bloomington and outside. The City of Bloomington is requesting that, for 2013, the equivalent amount that would have been transferred to the City automatically before the statute’s repeal continue to be paid to the City to support 3 dispatchers.


  • The Council will read for the first time an ordinance appropriating up to $2M of proceeds from a General Obligation Bond, in order to provide for various capital improvements.


  • The Council will review the results of 2014 Budget Hearings, in order to determine whether or not further changes are made.


  • The Prosecutor’s Office relies heavily on the funding from Pretrial Diversion and Infraction Diversion to fund not only those programs but some basic services of the prosecutor as well. Reduced revenue and increased expense has left this fund potentially unable to meet payroll in late 2013. The Council will consider various remedies, including moving positions from Pretrial Diversion to General (and thereby increasing the budget).


  • The Council has made several large one-time expenditures from the General Fund, including $1.8M for the Unified Dispatch Center and $1M for the Johnson Hardware/Community Corrections building. The Council will need to discuss the overall cash flow of the General and COIT funds and discuss an amount to transfer from Rainy Day into General in order to restore its ability to pay for six months of expenses (in other words, to support the operations of county government in 2014 until the June property tax settlement).


  • The Council will preview the tax rates and levies that it will be voting on during Budget Adoption Hearings on October 9th and 10th, 2013.


Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings – Final Update

Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings concluded Thursday evening (2013-09-19). The following budget proposals were considered by the County Council:

  • County Legal
  • Treasurer
    • A fairly substantial change was made here. The Treasurer requested an additional position – Financial/Cashbook Manager, in order to provide required separation of duties for financial management. However, in order to fund this position, the Treasurer gave up a Deputy Treasurer/Judgements position, and reassigned the duties to other staff. In addition, 1/4 of the salary of one of the Deputy Treasurers is now being funded by the Stormwater Management Department.
  • Convention Center (including Convention Center Debt Service, Convention and Visitors’ Commission, Convention Center Operating, and Convention Center Capital Improvement budgets)
    • No changes made; note that all of these budgets are funded by the Innkeeper’s Tax.
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Aviation General (Airport)
    • Bruce Payton, Monroe County Airport (BMG) Director, gave a presentation on the airport budget and revenue sources over the past 10 years, and reaffirmed the commitment of the airport to keeping their footprint on property taxes level or reduced. He also provided an update on the major sinkhole repairs on the main runway.
  • Human Resources
    • Human Resources withdrew a submitted request for additional staff. Some concern was voiced (concern that I agree with) that Monroe County’s Human Resources department (1 FTE) is under-resourced compared to the needs and size of the organization.
  • County Council
    • The County Council’s own (relatively small) budget generated the primary controversy of the night. After a robust discussion, the Council voted to add $10K to the Sophia Travis Community Service Grants program (the Council’s social services appropriation) for 2014. This brings it to a total of $110K, only up from $95K when it was created in 2007.  One council member attempted to play this increase against both job cuts for county departments and a possible cost of living increase for county employees; however, this argument was not at all persuasive. The Council subsequently eliminated all contractual services (most of which is spent on the County’s job classification consultant) in order to pay for this increase; however, it is unlikely that the Council will be able to go through the next year without any reclassification requests.

At the end of budget hearings, the Council was left with a combined General Fund and COIT Fund projected deficit (before reversions) of $271,681. This is well within the usual range of reversions, and so it is likely that by the end of 2014 the Council will have in fact a balanced budget. However, note that this budget does not include a cost of living increase for county employees.

From the beginning I have stated that a budget with a “paper” deficit of $250K-$300K (which will be erased by unspent appropriations) would be acceptable to me — if that budget included cost of living increases for county employees (note that the actual cost of living, based on the Midwest CPI, actually increased 1.8%).  So we still have more work to do.

The following chart summarizes the budgets for the General Fund and the COIT fund combined, after the conclusion of budget hearings:

General Fund COIT Total
Requests Requests Requests
Levy  $15,755,000  $15,755,000
Miscellaneous  $4,257,625  $10,045,699  $14,303,324
Total  $20,012,625  $10,045,699  $30,058,324
Appropriations  $20,320,404  $10,009,601  $30,330,005
Deficit (Surplus)  $307,779  $(36,098)  $271,681

Budget Adoption for Monroe County for the 2014 budget is scheduled for October 8th and 9th, at 5:30PM in the Nat U. Hill Room. Changes to the budget approved during budget hearings can be made before and during budget adoption. Public comment on the proposed budget to be adopted will be taken on both October 8th and 9th.

Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings – Update for Thursday, 2013-09-18

Yesterday’s penultimate session of the Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings saw a couple of important developments. The budgets heard were the following:

  • Emergency Management (including Emergency Management in the General Fund and Emergency Right to Know)
  • No changes were made
  • Surveyor (including Surveyor in the General Fund and Surveyor’s Section Corner Perpetuation Fund
  • No changes were made
  • Building Department
    • No changes were made, although concerns were noted that the staffing level of the Building Department may still be a bit high, especially since residential construction is still down substantially
  • Plan Commission
    • No changes were made
  • Sheriff
    • A training line for $8400, required by contract and accidentally omitted from the budget, was added. The sheriff requested increased salaries for deputies in order to reduce turnover; however, this request was not acted upon
  • Animal Control
    • No changes were made. For the first time in several years, there was no serious argument about the cost of the Interlocal Agreement with the City of Bloomington for use of the animal shelter
  • Correctional Facility (including the Correctional Facility budget in the General Fund and the Misdemeanant fund)
    • No changes were made in the budget as submitted. The Council appropriated an increase of $102K to the Correctional Facility to add full-time mental health care services at the jail to its health care contract. This was the only substantial increase that the Council has approved during budget hearings
  • Highway (including Highway, Administration, Maintenance and Repair, General Expenses, Local Road and Street, Cumulative Bridge, Westside Economic Development Area (TIF), 46 Corridor Economic Development Area (TIF), and Fullerton Pike Economic Development Area (TIF)
    • No changes were made. I have written in the past about increases in 2013 to the amount of gas tax that local governments receive from the state (Counties Agitate for Increased Road Funding), and that increased funding was seen in this year’s Maintenance & Repair and General Expenses budgets (out of the Motor Vehicle and Highway fund, which is entirely funded by gas taxes). These budgets saw a substantial increase in bitumen (asphalt, used to repair roads) and lease-purchase payments for new highway vehicles to replace Monroe County’s seriously aging fleet.
  • Stormwater
    • The Council added 1/2 of a position of a Deputy Treasurer, in order to cover the costs to the Treasurer’s Office in performing the stormwater billing function. Note that this is not a new position – this is simply covering some of the costs of an existing position in order to support stormwater billing. This arrangement will still need to be approved by the Stormwater Management Board, which may choose to fund the 1/2 position as appropriated, or some smaller amount.
  • Health (including the Health General fund and the Local Health Maintenance fund)
    • Minor changes were made voluntarily by the Health Department, in order to correct for several position reclassifications that were budgeted but not granted

The other large, more global change that was made during today’s budget hearing was to change the health/life insurance fringe rate from 21% to 20%. Monroe County Government is self-insured for health care (with a stop-loss insurance policy to cap total claims). The health insurance fringe rate is essentially a “tax” on all salaries in the organization, which is used to fund health premiums and other expenses of the program, and to pay claims. Part of that fringe rate goes into a reserve fund that is used to pay claims. That reserve fund has to be big enough to accommodate some large claims — say, an employee undergoes cancer treatment.

Just as with any insurance system, we need to constantly watch that reserve fund to make sure it is neither too large (in which case, we are essentially reducing departments’ budgets, only to build up cash for no reason) nor too small (in which case we would be unable to pay claims). Although there is no formal guidance, there is a general consensus among county officials (with the guidance of our benefits consultants) that $2.5M is around the right size. However, the current rate of 21% (i.e. 21% of all salaries is charged to county departmental budgets to fund the health plan) is raising too much money, resulting in reserves that have grown to $2.7M.

The Council made the decision to reduce the rate to 20%, which resulted in a $144K cut to the General Fund and COIT funds combined (and saves all funds that have salaries in them). Note that this action does not change employee benefits or compensation at all. As usual, we will still need to monitor the reserves fund and the health/life insurance fringe rate closely, to ensure that reserves don’t drop too much, and will continue to reevaluate this rate each year.

The following chart summarizes the changes that have been made to departmental submissions to date, in the General and COIT funds combined:

Change Amount Total Deficit
Clerk (Positions)  $(122,901.00)  $849,768.72
Public Defender (Move to Supplemental?)  $(108,225.00)  $741,543.72
Assessor (Position)  $(40,966.00)  $700,577.72
Recorder (Perpetuation)  $(40,966.00)  $659,611.72
HR (Request Withdrawn)  $(33,780.00)  $625,831.72
Prosecutor Supplies  $(21,000.00)  $604,831.72
CASA (Move to Juv Non?)  $(15,000.00)  $589,831.72
Pauper Attorneys  $(70,000.00)  $519,831.72
Commissioners  $(20,000.00)  $499,831.72
Probation (Grant-Funded Positions)  $(46,763.00)  $453,068.72
Fringe ($144,636.73)  $308,431.99
Sheriff Training  $8,500.00  $316,931.99

At this point our departmental requests exceed planned revenues by $316,932. Remember, though, that all of these numbers are only estimates of what will actually happen. The revenues may be higher or lower than projections, and departments don’t always spend all of their budgets. Generally, by the end of the budget year, deficits of this small size are wiped out by reversions (unspent appropriations that are returned).

The other thing to note is that these numbers do not include any employee cost of living increases. It is difficult to provide cost of living increases when deficit-spending — so it is important that the Council and county departments still look for savings.

One more day of budget hearings left!

Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings – Update for Wednesday, 2013-09-18

Wow, so much happening! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out an update before today’s budget hearings.

I’ll cover today’s proceedings in a separate post;  I wanted to give a quick update on the major changes during yesterday’s marathon session as soon as possible, though. The following developments happened in yesterday’s hearings:

  • Courts
    • $70K in pauper attorney requests cut. Pauper attorneys are primarily appointed when judges deem that the Public Defender would have a conflict of interest with a particular defendant. Courts were asked to transfer into this line later in the year out of existing unspent appropriations if they need the additional pauper attorney funding
  • Probation
    • $46,763 was cut from two lines that either were already or would likely be funded by grants
    • There was some discussion about the appropriate number of probation officers. The salaries (including step increases and cost of living increases) of probation officers are set by the state, and so probation increases are (correctly) perceived by the Council as an unfunded mandate
    • A placeholder for software was cut from the Juvenile Services Nonreverting Fund
    • During the discussion on Project Income (the primary support for Community Corrections, paid for by user fees from program participants), it was pointed out that this fund, formerly unsustainable, is now sustainable because the County bought the Johnson Hardware Community Corrections building, and so Project Income funds no longer need to be spent on rent to CFC
    • In the discussion on the Juvenile Probation budget, which is in the Juvenile COIT fund (funded by a 0.05% special income tax earmarked for juvenile services), Troy Hatfield, chief deputy probation officer, demonstrated that the Juvenile COIT will not raise enough revenue to support current juvenile services by 2015, and that the Council will need to consider increasing the rate (the statutory maximum is 0.25%).  The tax would need to be reauthorized by the County Council by August, 2014 anyway.
  • Youth Services
    • Part of the Youth Services (Binkley Youth Shelter) budget is funded through the Juvenile COIT as well. The above comments about the unsustainability of current Juvenile COIT revenues apply as well.
    • The other portion of the Youth Services budget is funded by the County Per Diems fund. This fund receives revenues from the reimbursements that Monroe County is paid when youth are placed in the shelter.  Last year, several personnel from other Youth Services budgets were placed in this fund when the per diem reimbursements were higher and the cash balance, having built up for several years, was very high. Changes (cuts) in reimbursements from the state have resulted in situation in which the County Per Diems fund is unsustainable as-is.
  • Public Defender
    • The Public Defender requested several changes, as mandated by the state Public Defender Commission, in order to promote equity between the Public Defender’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office.  These changes included (a) bringing the salaries of the Chief Public Defender and the Chief Deputy Public Defender up to the salaries of the Prosecutor and Chief Deputy Prosecutor (previous council decisions had reduced these salaries to 90% of that of the Prosecutor and Chief Deputy Prosecutor, which was within the guidelines of the Public Defender Commission at the time), and also (b) raising the classifications of senior deputy public defenders to the same classification of equivalent deputy prosecutors.  These changes were perceived as an unfunded (or underfunded) mandate by the Council; however, the program that provides funding from the state — and in return requires that the above guidelines be met — funds about a third of the public defender’s budget in Monroe County. Opting out of the program would result in a substantial cut in funding for defense of the indigent, and would be highly undesirable from a public policy perspective.  The council preferred to pay these requests out of the fund that receives reimbursements from the state (the Public Defender Supplemental Fund), rather than the general fund. However, since the PD Supplemental Fund was not advertised highly enough to include these expenses, the Council simply removed them from the General Fund request, and deferred action until early 2014. In addition, as the County already has a policy with respect to reclassifications, the Council instructed the Public Defender to continue the reclassification process in order to have the deputy public defenders reclassified. This resulted in a reduction in the General Fund of about $108K
  • Prosecutor
    • The Prosecutor raised the perennial issue of the putative over-reliance of the County on Pretrial Diversion for funding basic operations of the Prosecutor’s Office. Last year the Council moved three legal secretary positions from Pretrial Diversion to the General Fund to alleviate pressure on the Pretrial Diversion fund (there are still two legal secretaries left). The Prosecutor requested that $21K in supplies and services be moved from the Pretrial Diversion fund to the General Fund. The Council denied this request, stating that the Prosecutor should transfer from other unspent appropriations if needed.
    • The Pretrial Diversion budget is clearly not sustainable as-is; hoever the Proesecutor’s Office cannot spend out of this fund if the balance is negative.  The Council chose (by default) to deal with this at a future time.
  • Assessor
    • The Assessor volunteered to give up a deputy position, which has been vacant since January of this year. This position elimination reduced the Assessor’s request by $46,763.


Hope for an update tomorrow morning on today’s hearings!


Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings – Update for Tuesday, 2013-09-17

2014 budget hearings for Monroe County continue tonight at 5:30 at the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse.  Tonight, the County Council will consider the following budgets:

  • Courts (including the Courts budget in the COIT fund, Jury Pay, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Title IV-D Incentive)
  • Probation (including the Probation budget in the COIT fund, Juvenile Services Nonreverting Fund, County Offender Transportation, Juvenile Probation User Fees, Problem Solving Courts, Project Income, Adult Probation User Fees, Court Alcohol/Drug Fees, Juvenile COIT – Juvenile Probation)
  • Youth Services (including the Juvenile COIT – YSB and County Per Diems budgets)
  • Public Defender (including the Public Defender budget in the County General fund and the Supplemental Public Defender budget)
  • Prosecutor (including the Prosecutor’s budget in the County General fund, Child Support in County General, Extradition, and Pretrial Diversion)
  • Assessor (including the Assessor’s budget in the County General fund, the Reassessment 2015 fund, and the Sales Disclosure fund)

At this point, the 2014 budget still has a little less than $800K in projected expenditures over projected revenue. This is likely to be a long night!

Budget submission documents can be found here: http://docs.co.monroe.in.us/budget/COUNCIL/Budgets/2014%20Budget/


Council Takes First Step Towards General Obligation Bond for 2014 to Fund Infrastructure

Last night the Council took the first step towards the issuance of $2M in general obligation bonds for 2014 to fund several critical infrastructure projects in Monroe County. At the beginning of budget hearings, the Council unanimously passed Ordinance 2013-25, which kicks off the bond timeline.

The following projects are identified in the Ordinance for potential funding by the bond:

  • Showers – waterproofing the foundation
  • Showers – tuck pointing, window sill repairs
  • Technology connectivity upgrade
  • Waterproofing Courthouse wall
  • Vehicles (2 prosector, 2 probation)
  • Movement of offices from One City Center to Curry, Curry to Showers and Community Corrections
  • Archives project
  • Jail remodel for medical ward
  • Jail control panel
  • Heating and cooling with zoning for county buildings
  • Karst Ellettsville connection trail
  • Proximity locks
  • Additional tornado siren
  • Ambulance purchase
  • Solar thermal hot water system for the Justice Building/Jail (Note: the official potential project list referred to this as a “solar thermal blanket”, but this was an error)

Note that these projects will likely far exceed the $2M available from the bond; as cost estimates are refined for each of these projects, the list will be refined and prioritized. The highest priority for the GO bond, however, is the urgent need for the repairs to the Showers and Courthouse buildings. The County owns a lot of old historic buildings, and unfortunately along with this comes a high maintenance cost.

This bond would raise $2M, which would be paid back in 2014.  It would be funded by an increase in property taxes for 2014 only (a rate that would automatically drop off at the end of 2014).

This vote was only preliminary; the next step is to conduct a public hearing, which is scheduled for the October County Council meeting, scheduled for October 8, 2013 at 5:30PM at the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse.  At the public hearing, the County Council will hear presentations on the costs and benefits of the infrastructure upgrades and other capital purchases, and will take comment from the public on the request to issue the bonds.

I hope to have more information soon on the Commissioners’ proposals for these infrastructure projects.

Here are the documents that the Council considered:

County Budget Hearings Update

Tonight, the Monroe County Council heard budget submissions from the County Commissioners (a number of  budgets), the Recorder, and the Technical Services department, and also conducted binding reviews of Perry Clear Creek Fire Protection District and Monroe County Solid Waste Management District. Statute gives the County Council binding review over these two units because they are not governed by elected boards (although the board of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District is made up entirely of elected officials, none of them were elected specifically to serve on the MCSWMD board).

Despite over 4 hours of discussion, the only changes made were to reduce the Commissioners budget by $20,000 (eliminating a request for Middle Way House — the Council preferred to see this request submitted to the Sophia Travis Community Service Grants Program) and to reject the proposal from the Recorder to move one position from the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund to County General (a change that the Recorder himself came to budget hearings proposing, in the interest of helping us balance the budget).

We began budget hearings with $972,670 in budget requests over projected revenues. After two days of budget hearings we are still substantially short of needed cuts. The following changes have been made so far:

Reductions in Clerk’s Office  $(122,901.00)
Reductions in Commissioners  $(20,000.00)
Reduction in Recorder  $(40,967.05)

This leaves a projected deficit of $788,801. Despite a grueling 2 days, we are far away from our goal.

Monroe County 2014 Budget Hearings – Update for Thursday, 2013-09-12

This past Tuesday saw the beginnings of 2014 Budget Hearings for Monroe County Government. The Monroe County Council heard and passed budgets for the Clerk, the Extension Office, Parks and Recreation, the Auditor, and Weights and Measures.

This evening’s meeting, which begins at 5:30PM at the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse, will include budget requests for the following departments:

  • County Commissioners (which includes the Commissioners budget, County Buildings, Cable Franchise Fees, Showers Building Operations, Showers Building Debt, Fleet, Cumulative Capital Development, and Monroe County 911). In addition, we will be considering a budget for a proposed General Obligation (GO) bond. See more about this below.
  • Human Resources (in the County General fund)
  • Recorder (in the County General fund)
  • Technical Services (IT)  (in the County General fund)
  • County Council (in the County General fund)

Budget submission documents can be found here: http://docs.co.monroe.in.us/budget/COUNCIL/Budgets/2014%20Budget/

In addition, at 6PM, the Council will conduct Binding Review hearings on the budgets of the following two units of government: Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District and Monroe County Solid Waste Management District. The County Council by statute has binding review authority over these two budgets.  Public comment will be taken on these two budgets.

Budget submissions from Perry-Clear Creek and MCSWMD can be found here:  http://docs.co.monroe.in.us/budget/COUNCIL/Budgets/2014%20Budget/2014%20Binding%20Reviews/

The Council will also be considering a request by the County Commissioners for a $2M General Obligation bond for 2014. This bond would include funding for:

  • Repairs to the Showers and Courthouse buildings (mostly related to water leaks)
  • IT infrastructure upgrades to replace the County’s failing IT infrastructure
  • HVAC repairs and upgrades
  • An ambulance vehicle

This bond would be a one-year bond (meaning that it would be paid off in 2014), and would have a separate tax rate associated with it. This means that, if passed, property taxes would go up slightly for 2014 in order to pay off this debt (and would then go back down in 2015). I’ll post additional details once we know them about what the effects of this bond would be on property taxes.