I-69 Section 5 Synopsis Provided at Open House

logoLast night, I-69 Development Partners, the contractor hired by the Indiana Finance Authority to design, build, operate, finance, and maintain Section 5 of I-69 held a (contractually-required) open house to share with the public some more specifics about the I-69 Section 5 development plan. Construction is expected to begin on Section 5 literally any day now, and will be completed by the end of 2016.

I’ll comment on some specifics of the plan in future posts — but wanted to get out to the public who wasn’t able to make it to the open house a copy of a synopsis of the route and plan that was handed out at the open house. I find this an extremely helpful and informative summary of what is planned for each each access point (i.e., interchange, closure, overpass, bridge, sound wall, etc.), and was surprised that the HT didn’t include it in the article published today on the open house (unless I missed something): Tapp Road changes among updates at I-69 open house (HT subscription required).

The handout can be found here: I69 Section 5 Synopsis

Note: this is a scan of a paper copy I received; I’ll try to get an electronic copy to substitute.

Karst Farm Greenway Nearly Complete

IMG_0084Phase I of the Karst Farm Greenway — a project that has been eight years (!!) in the making — is finally nearing completion. The Karst Farm Greenway forms the north-south backbone of Monroe County’s active transportation network.

I’ve provided some background about the greenway previously here. Phase I runs from Karst Farm Park at the south to Vernal Pike at the north, where it joins the trail that connects to the new northwest YMCA. The Karst Farm Greenway connects to the park, the YMCA, Ivy Tech, the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, and Highland Park and Grandview schools.

Although some of the finishes on the greenway (signage, etc.) won’t be complete, final surfacing is expected to be completed this Monday.

Here are a few snapshots I took on the Greenway on Thursday.

IMG_0082 IMG_0096 IMG_0095 IMG_0093 IMG_0092 IMG_0090 IMG_0088 IMG_0087 IMG_0086 IMG_0085 IMG_0084 IMG_0083 IMG_0103 IMG_0102 IMG_0100 IMG_0099 IMG_0097

Phase IIA of the project, which is also fully funded, extends the trail north to Loesch Road. Phase IIB of the project, which is not yet funded, extends the project north all of the way to Ellettsville.

Budget Adoption for Monroe County, Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection, and Solid Waste District Tonight

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

Last night, the Monroe County Council began the budget adoption process for Monroe County as well as the Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District and the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District, by hearing the first reading of their budgets, tax levies, and tax rates.

The only change that was made during first reading last night was to correct a small error in the County General Fund budget with respect to the salary of the Veterans Affairs officer, increasing the General Fund budget from $20,333,963 to $20,334,639.

Tonight’s meeting will consist of the second reading of and final votes on the budget, tax levies, and tax rates for Monroe County, Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District, and Monroe County Solid Waste Management District. In addition, the Council will also hear the second reading of and vote on the Monroe County 2015 Salary Ordinance. Public comment will be taken on any of these budgets, rates, and levies.

The meeting begins at 5:30 PM tonight in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse and as usual the meeting will also be broadcast on CATS. Hope to see you there!

Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting Today 2014-10-14

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

Today is going to be a big day for the County Council. I have already posted about today’s budget adoption first reading for Monroe County, Monroe County Solid Waste Management District, and Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District. But today’s meeting also includes a regular meeting of the Monroe County Council.

The following are the major items of substance on the agenda

1. The County Commissioners are requesting the approval of and appropriation of funds for a $2M general obligation bond for 2015 for capital expenses. This bond has a one-year term, and will be paid for during 2015 by a property tax levy. The County currently has a one-year $2M bond for 2014 that will be paid off by the end of this year, most of which was used for renovations on the courthouse. The Commissioners have not yet presented in detail the projects that the bond will be used for; however, the following is the general summary:

  • County buildings water retrofit — updating sinks, faucets and toilets to more energy efficient versions
  • Community corrections ramp system — replace current ramping system at the Johnson Hardware building with a concrete structure. This will provide better footing in inclement weather
  • Charlotte T. Zietlow Justice Center terrazzo upkeep
  • Replace 3 county vehicles
  • Highway fuel system
  • Tornado sirens (4)
  • Computer replacement and software for virtualization
  • Parking garage / infrastructure repairs or updates — this will be used to improve building efficiency and provide necessary capital for the proposed parking garage
  • HVAC retrofit for enhanced energy efficiency

2. The County Commissioners are presenting the 2015 amendment to the interlocal agreement between Monroe County, the City of Bloomington, and the Town of Ellettsville with respect to animal management. The interlocal agreement both allows the County to enforce animal control rules within the jurisdiction of the Town of Ellettsville and specifies the amount that both Ellettsville and Monroe County pay to the City of Bloomington for use of its animal shelter. Per the interlocal agreement, the costs of the animal shelter are divided up among the City of Bloomington, the Town of Ellettsville, and Monroe County depending on the number of animals brought to the shelter from each jurisdiction. The City of Bloomington absorbs the costs of animals brought in from other counties.

The following table illustrates the breakdown of animals brought into the shelter by jurisdiction, which is used to determine the fees paid in 2015 to the City of Bloomington by Monroe County and the Town of Ellettsville.

Animal Control 2013 Numbers
Animal Control 2013 Numbers

3. The County Council will be voting on its proposed 2014 awards from the Sophia Travis Community Service Grants program. The recommendations, totaling $110K for 2014, are made by the awards committee, consisting of three council members and two members of the public. The recommendations for 2014 are:

Sophia Travis 2014 Proposed Awards

4. The Youth Services Bureau and Probation are requesting the appropriation of an over $92K grant they received from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to implement the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in Monroe County. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is a bipartisan movement for juvenile justice reinvestment. The initiative involves the reallocation of government resources away from mass incarceration and toward investment in youth, families, and communities.

5. Court Services is requesting the appropriation of a $100K grant received for Title IV-D Parenting Time.

6. The Recorder is requesting an additional appropriation of around $15K in order to move two deputy recorders out of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund into the General Fund for the remainder of 2014. In my 2015 Budget Hearings Recap I wrote about this issue in more detail. The 2014 budget pays for three of the six employees of the Recorder’s office from the General Fund and three from the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund. The budget for 2015 pays for five out of the six out of the General Fund. However, the Perpetuation Fund is expected to be depleted before the end of the year, so the Recorder is requesting that this change be made immediately, rather than in the beginning of 2015.

7. The Auditor is requesting an additional appropriation from the Plat Book fund for a special project.

In addition to these items, there will be a few requests for transfer of funds from one category to another, as well as a request from the Commissioners to refill a maintenance position.

This meeting will begin at 5:30PM today in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and public comment will be taken. As I mentioned in the Preview to 2015 Monroe County Budget Adoption earlier, this meeting will also be shared with the first budget readings for adoption of the 2015 budgets for Monroe County, Monroe County Solid Waste Management District, and Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District, and the regular meeting will be temporarily recessed at 6PM for the adoption hearings of the latter two units.

Hope to see you at the meeting!

Preview of Monroe County Budget Adoption Tuesday and Wednesday

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

Budget Adoption Process

Last week I wrote about the results of the 2015 Monroe County budget hearings. This upcoming week, the Monroe County Council will formally adopt the 2015 budget, as well as the property tax rates and levies needed to raise the revenues for the budget (not all funds in the budget to be adopted are supported by property taxes). In addition, the Council will adopt the budget and property tax rates and levies for the two other units of government for which the County Council has binding authority: Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District and Monroe County Solid Waste Management District.

For all three units, budget adoption will happen over two evenings, Tuesday, October 14 and Wednesday, October 15. Tuesday will consist of what is called first reading: the budget total, tax rate, and tax levy will be read into the record for each fund for each unit. For the Monroe County budget adoption, the 2015 salary ordinance will also be introduced for first reading. The council will discuss, and public comment will be taken. No votes will be taken on first reading. The council will also be discussing our appeal for an excess levy to correct several past errors in assessed value.

On Wednesday, we will essentially repeat the procedure. Budgets, tax rates, and tax levies will be read into the record for the second time for all three units (Monroe County, Perry-Clear Creek, and Solid Waste), the council will discuss, and public comment will be taken. Votes on adopting the budget will be conducted at the end of each deliberation.

Note that the County Council can make changes to the proposed budgets as well, before voting on adoption.

The budget adoption on Tuesday will be conducted along with a regular County Council meeting, so the agenda will be somewhat complicated. The full agenda and packet are available here. Following is the summary of the agenda on Tuesday, though:

  • Regular County Council meeting is called to order at 5:30PM
  • At 6PM, the regular meeting will be recessed, and the hearing for the adoption of the budgets for Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District and Monroe County Solid Waste Management District.
  • The adoption hearing for the two units will be continued until Wednesday, after first reading
  • The regular County Council meeting will resume until its conclusion
  • After adjournment of the regular County Council meeting, the budget adoption hearing for Monroe County will be called to order
  • After first reading of the Monroe County budget, rates, and levies, the budget adoption will be continued until Wednesday

Budgets, Tax Rates, and Levies

So are the budgets, rates, and levies that will actually be adopted?

Monroe County

The proposed budget to be adopted for Monroe County is $60,602,338, spread across 47 different funds. 13 of these funds are what is called “Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF)-Reviewed Funds”, which means that the state reviews our budgets, rates, and levies after we adopt them. These DLGF-reviewed funds are:

  • General (this is supported by property taxes and miscellaneous revenue)
  • 2015 Reassessment (this is supported by property taxes)
  • Debt Payment (this is the mortgage on the Showers building, supported by property taxes)
  • Bond #2 (this is a $2M one-year general obligation bond that the County Commissioners are proposing to pay for some building improvement and maintenance projects — the council has not yet voted on this bond; the bond would be supported by property taxes)
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau (this is supported by the innkeepers’ tax)
  • Highway (supported by the state gas tax as well as the local wheel and excise surtax, sometimes called the local option highway user tax, or LOHUT)
  • Local Road & Street (also supported by state gas tax and local wheel and excise surtax)
  • Cumulative Bridge (this is supported by property taxes)
  • Health (this is supported by property taxes)
  • Park Non-reverting Capital fund (this is supported by park fees, such as shelter rentals)
  • County Fair (this is supported by property taxes)
  • Aviation/Airport (this is supported by property taxes as well as airport user fees)
  • Cumulative Capital Development (this is supported by property taxes)

The DLGF-reviewed funds have a total budget of $38,177,152, a proposed tax levy of $25,283,487, and a proposed tax rate of 0.4602 for every $100 of assessed value.

The remaining 44 funds are called home-ruled funds, and are not reviewed by the state. Several of the more significant of these funds include:

  • County Option Income Tax (COIT) fund that supports many critical county functions that used to be in the General Fund
  • Juvenile County Option Income Tax (JCOIT) fund that supports juvenile facilities
  • Monroe County E-911, which receives 911 fees from the state (paid by phone subscribers) and used to support the unified dispatch center
  • Stormwater Management, which receives the stormwater fees collected by the county from property owners outside of the incorporated areas of Bloomington and Ellettsville (which have their own stormwater fees)
  • Supplemental Public Defender Fee, which receives reimbursements from the state for felony cases defended by the public defender
  • The three Monroe County TIF districts, which receive property taxes from the allocation areas for each of the districts

The total budget for these home-ruled funds is $22,425,186.

The complete list of funds, tax rates, and tax levies that make up the Monroe County budget can be found in the 2015 Ordinance for Appropriations and Tax Rate for Monroe County.

Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District

The total proposed 2015 budget for the Perry Clear Creek Fire Protection District is $2,322,200, split across two funds: Cumulative Fire, which is used to purchase equipment and pay for the construction of the new fire station, and Fire General, which is used for general operations of the fire department.

The proposed tax levy is $1,544,583 and the proposed tax rate is 0.1532 for every $100 of assessed value.

The amounts for each fund can be found in the 2015 Ordinance for Appropriations and Tax Rate for Perry-Clear Creek.

Monroe County Solid Waste Management District

The total proposed 2015 budget for the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District is $2,949,934, split across two funds: the Solid Waste Management fund, which is used for the operations of the district, and the Debt Service fund, which is used to pay the bond used for the landfill closure.

The proposed tax levy is $1,860,000 and the proposed tax rate is 0.0287 for every $100 of assessed value.

The amounts for each fund can be found in the 2015 Ordinance for Appropriations and Tax Rate for Solid Waste District.

Hope to see members of the public there on Tuesday and Wednesday!

Monroe County 2015 Budget Hearings Recap

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

I’m embarrassed to see that I haven’t made a blog post since August 12 — unfortunately there just hasn’t been enough time in the day. However, that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening in Monroe County Government; in fact, just the opposite! On Tuesday night, the Monroe County Council completed its annual budget hearings for 2015, which took up a good portion of the month of September. Budget hearings are a required annual process in which each county department presents its budget request for the upcoming year, and the county council votes to approve it or make changes.

During budget hearings, the County Council appropriated over $62M for county government functions across 47 funds.

All in all, this was, in my view, a particularly successful budget hearing. The most significant and substantive accomplishments were:

  1. The Council passed a balanced budget. For the first time in a number of years, the Council passed a budget in which planned expenditures for the primary operating expenses (in the General Fund and the County Option Income Tax Fund) are less than planned revenues. I’ll discuss more about the concept of a balanced budget in a future post.
  2. County employees (other than those whose salaries are mandated by state law) will receive a 2.8% cost of living increase. 2.8% represents two years of increase in the actual cost of living (as measured by changes in the Midwest Consumer Price Index from the previous December to December). This is the standard methodology that has been used by the Council in recent years. County employees did not receive any cost of living increase in 2014.
  3. The Human Resources department was increased from one full-time employee to two (moving a half-time position to full-time). Many councilors, including myself, indicated early in budget hearings that this increase was our number one priority if the resources were available. The county has over 525 full-time employees, and over 700 employees including part-time, and 1 full-time HR professional is well below the level needed to properly serve an organization of this size. With the increased resources, the HR department has plans to enhance employee training, increase desk audits, and introduce performance management techniques, along with other initiatives.
  4. Two employees in the Recorder’s Office were moved from the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund to the General Fund. The Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund is funded by certain fees on recorded mortgages and deeds, along with copies made of these documents, and is statutorily earmarked specifically for the preservation of records and the improvement of record keeping systems and equipment in the Recorder’s Office (in fact, the council doesn’t even appropriate the fund; it is entirely under the control of the Recorder). However, whenever balances in the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund grow large, county councils are always temped to try to use the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund to support the general operations of the Recorder’s Office, despite the murky legality of such arrangements. Back in 2008, when the Monroe County Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund’s balance was over half a million $, the Recorder worked with the County Council to move the entire salary of 1 employee, half the salaries of 2 employees, and three quarters of the salaries of 2 employees out of the General Fund into the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund. This was enormously helpful to the County Council in funding county government through some difficult times; however, by 2013, the balance of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund had almost entirely been spent down.In an attempt to stabilize the fund, for the 2014 budget, the Council rearranged the funding of the Recorder’s Office staff, paying for 3 employees out of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund and 3 employees out of the General Fund. Unfortunately, due to diminishing revenues from recorded documents, this restructuring wasn’t adequate, and the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund is now in a position where it can mostly likely not even meet payroll for 2014.In addition, some new legislation in 2014 clarified the use of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund for general operations, stating that the fund could be used to fund salaries and other general operational expenses, but only if the Recorder attested each year that the records perpetuation efforts and technology of the department were fully funded. For these reasons, the Council moved two of the three positions funded out of the Perpetuation Fund into the General Fund, leaving only one position in the Perpetuation Fund — the Microfilm Deputy, whose work is clearly related to the purpose of the Perpetuation Fund. Although this may seem somewhat “inside baseball”, this move was a huge step in ensuring the sustainability of the Perpetuation Fund, and weaning the Council off of the use of the very limited Perpetuation Fund to subsidize basic county government operations.
  5. Two employees were moved from the Prosecutor’s Pretrial Diversion Program fund into the General Fund. This situation is very similar to that of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund, which which a fee-driven fund (Pretrial Diversion) was used to subsidize basic county government operations that should have been paid for out of County General. In the case of Pretrial Diversion, though, the situation was much more adversarial than with the Recorder’s Office. For a number of years, the Prosecutor’s Office would deposit excess revenues from Pretrial Diversion into the General Fund — in essence, the Pretrial Diversion Program was subsidizing the General Fund.The last year this occurred was 2006, in which $170K was transferred from Pretrial Diversion to the General Fund. During the last year of the Carl Salzmann administration, 2007, this practice was discontinued, and no funds were transferred to the General Fund. In apparent retaliation, in 2008 the County Council transferred $170K of salaries for Prosecutor’s Office employees (legal secretaries and paralegals) from the General Fund into the Pretrial Diversion Program fund.As with the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund, over the years, the revenue and cost curves went in the opposite direction — pretrial diversion revenue declined overall (though not every year), while personnel costs (salary and benefits) naturally increased, leading to an unsustainable situation. Again, as with the Recorder situation, the Pretrial Diversion Program fund expended all of its reserves, to the point where it faced a negative balance by the end of 2014. Again, the Council started to address the situation in 2013, moving one of the salaries back into the General Fund for 2014. However, again this wasn’t enough, and the Council had to move the two remaining general prosecutorial positions (i.e., positions not there to support the Pretrial Diversion Program) into the General Fund several months ago in 2014.

    The 2015 budget included all of the basic prosecutorial positions in the General Fund that had been moved into the Pretrial Diversion Fund by the Council in 2008 — thereby finally ending the unsustainable subsidy of the Prosecutor’s Office by the Pretrial Diversion Program fund. Incidentally, this is not only an important accomplishment because it ensures the sustainability of the Pretrial Diversion Program; more importantly, it ends a practice that could be perceived as a conflict of interest — i.e., the Prosecutor formerly could be perceived as having an incentive to ramp up the Pretrial Diversion Program in order to fund basic operations.

I’m very proud of all of my colleagues on the County Council and in other county departments this year for what they accomplished — a balanced budget, a cost of living raise of county employees, increased organizational capacity, and weaning the county off of unsustainable fee funds.

Of course, there is still some unfinished business. This year we raised the Juvenile County Option Income (Juvenile COIT) Tax from 0.05% to 0.095%. The 2015 budget moved some youth-related expenses from the General Fund into the Juvenile COIT fund; however, the Youth Services Bureau had a proposal to add two new positions and reclassify several others in order to provide more outreach and build organizational capacity. This proposal was removed from the 2015 budget proposal, however, and will be considered in the future by the County Council on its own. The Treasurer’s Office also requested 1-2 additional staff in order to address claimed chronic understaffing in the office. The Council ultimately declined to add additional positions during budget hearings, but agreed that they needed to address the staffing levels in the future. Finally, the planned revenue for 2015 also included around $250K in an appeal for a one-time excess levy in order to correct several past errors. The Council still needs to complete this appeal — and there is no guarantee we will receive all of what we are requesting.

The next step in the budget process is for the Council to formally adopt the proposed budget, as well as set the tax rates and levies that will be used to fund the property tax portion of these budgets. Budget adoption hearings will be held on Tuesday, 2014-10-14 and Wednesday, 2014-10-15, at 5:30PM each evening.