2019 Monroe County Budget Order, Tax Rates Approved

Monroe County Courthouse at Night
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

Last night, Monroe County received its 2019 Budget Order from the state, which includes:

  • The budgets for all taxing units (i.e., county, cities and towns, school districts, townships, public library, special units)
  • The property tax levies and tax rates for all taxing units
  • The property tax rates for each taxing district (i.e., the tax rates that actually affect each property owner)

The following table summarizes the total 2019 property tax rate (per $100 of net assessed value) for each taxing district in Monroe County, sorted from highest to lowest. I’ve also included the 2015-2018 tax rates for comparison.

Monroe County Property Tax Rates 2015-2019

I highlighted the taxing districts that are within incorporated municipalities in aqua.

The following are my brief observations about the 2018 tax rates:

  • Most tax rates remained about the same from 2018 to 2019 (decreased or increased less than $0.01), with two exceptions (which follow)
  • The rates for the taxing districts served by the Richland-Bean Blossom School Corporation (Ellettsville, Stinesville, and unincorporated Richland and Bean Blossom Townships). went down substantially, almost $0.25 (per $100 of assessed value). This is a result of the correction in 2019 of a bond-related tax rate error that caused rates in the areas served by R-BB to increase substantially
  • Indian Creek Township‘s rate went up almost $0.09, as a result of joining the Monroe Fire Protection District (formerly known as Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District)

Funding for Youth Services Expansion on Council Agenda for Tonight

Back in March, I wrote about an exciting plan for major capital improvements to Monroe County’s facilities for youth services, including the Binkley House Youth Shelter (located at 615 S Adams St).

Much has happened with this project over the last several months. An architect was hired (RQAW), the facilities were designed, and the County Commissioners have awarded a contract for construction of the new facility to Building Associates, pending funding approval by the County Council.

Architect’s rendering of the expanded youth facilities and Binkley House youth shelter

At tonight’s County Council meeting, the Council will consider the appropriation request for $2,261,000 to fund the construction. The actual bids came in quite a bit under the estimated $3M for the project. The Council will consider funding the project from three sources, all of which are earmarked specifically for funding for youth services:

  • Juvenile Per Diem Fund (which receives money from the state when youth are placed in the facility)
  • Juvenile Services Non-Reverting Fund (which received one-time money left over from the Child Welfare property tax levy when the state took over child welfare funding)
  • Juvenile Rainy Day Fund (which received certain special distributions of the Juvenile county option income tax)

None of these funds by themselves could support the entire $2.3M appropriation, but together they more than fund the project, which means that the County will not need to bond for (borrow) the money for this capital project.

When talking about youth services and our youth shelter here in Monroe County, I want to make it clear, because several constituents have asked me about it, that our youth facilities do not include any aspect of secure detention. Our Youth Services Bureau is entirely focused on supporting youth and families through advocacy, education, collaboration, and providing support to youth and families in crisis.

Monroe County’s proactive and positive approach to youth services has resulted in one of the lowest rates of youth placed in secure detention in the date, a rate radically lower than that of our peer counties.

The Monroe County Council meetings tonight, January 8, 2019 at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. The meeting will be broadcast on CATS and is open to the public. Public comment will be taken on any item on the agenda (including this proposal to fund the YSB expansion) and on topics not on the agenda.

Monroe County 2019 Budget Advertised in Advance of Budget Hearing

Monroe County Courthouse
Monroe County Courthouse in the Fall

Today, Monroe County published its official advertisement of its proposed 2019 budget and tax levies, in advance of the public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 5:30 PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse.

The official advertisement (“Notice to Taxpayers”) provides a total budget and tax levy (the amount of property taxes to be collected) for each fund. Not all funds receive property taxes. Note that the tax levies are frequently advertised higher than the level at which the County Council will actually adopt them, in order to give the Council flexibility (after advertisement, budgets and levies can only be decreased, not increased). 

While the Notice to Taxpayers includes a summary of the proposed budget by fund, the following report provides line-by-line detail of the budget to be considered:

The following is a summary of the major changes to the budget from 2018 to 2019:

  • Addition of 5 corrections officers to the Monroe County Jail, in order to alleviate understaffing concerns (paid out of the Public Safety Local Income Tax/PS-LIT). More staff means a more humane environment for everyone – the existing staff, those incarcerated, and the families of those incarcerated. We’ll have to look closely and see if that is enough. I suspect we’ll have to revisit the jail staffing levels over the next year. 
  • Addition of 1 audit coordinator position in the Auditor’s Office, to improve internal compliance, along with a move of an employee in the financial division of the office from 35 hours to 40 hours.
  • Addition of 1 tech services (IT) technician who will focus on jail and justice-related applications.
  • Move of 2 probation officer positions in Community Corrections, along with some hourly staff and electronic monitoring fees out of unsustainable user fee funds into tax-supported funds. This was my number one priority for this budget. We need to support alternatives to incarceration, and base funding for Community Corrections is one of those ways that the Council can demonstrate our commitment. One of the reasons why the user fee funds are no longer sustainable is because of the partial elimination of the use of cash bail, which is a very positive development.
  • Similarly, move of 1/2 a position in the Prosecutor’s Office to the General Fund, out of Pretrial Diversion fees. This represents the conclusion of almost a decade-long effort to move essential positions in the Prosecutor’s Office out of unsustainable user fee funds.
  • Increase in the costs of providing employee health care from $9800 to $10,200 per full-time employee.
  • Cost of living increase for county employees (including elected officials) of 1.7%. This number represents the change in Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the midwest region from December to the previous December. This is the benchmark that the County Council uses for cost of living. We have spent a lot of effort over the past two years increasing employee salaries in various ways, and it is important that we don’t let county employees’ salaries erode due to inflation.
  • Addition of 3 shift supervisor positions and funding of capital equipment projects in the Unified City/County Dispatch Center. The positions will actually be City of Bloomington employees.
  • Funding of the 2019 municipal election. Each year, the budget of the Election Board is different, depending on the specifics of each election year. In municipal election years, a substantial portion of the costs of the election will be reimbursed by the City of Bloomington and potentially the Town of Ellettsville. 
  • Addition of a second K-9 unit in the Sheriff’s Department, funded by the PS-LIT.

If there is anything that attracts your interest that I didn’t cover in this summary, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to explain!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a public hearing will be held on this proposed budget on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 5:30 PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. The public is invited to read the above proposed budget, and make comment, either at the public hearing, or beforehand to any or all of their County Council representatives

Annual Report and Presentation on the Monroe County Jail Today

The Monroe County Correctional Center and the criminal justice system that feeds it has been on my mind a lot lately. Each day, the jail reports the number of people in custody, in several different categories (e.g., secure beds, program beds, detox, etc.). Because many people are in the jail for a very short period of time, the numbers vary widely over time. Today’s count of individuals in secure beds was a whopping 290, out of a rated capacity of 248. On the other hand, that count was “only” in the low 230s back in mid-March. Clearly some of that dramatic increase is due to the combination of the onset of good weather combined with IU’s Little 500.

But even factoring out localizes spikes in jail population, it is clear that we are seeing a longer-term secular increase. Recently the County Council received the statutorily-mandated 2017 Monroe County Correctional Center Annual Jail Report.  The report is definitely worth reading in its entirety — it provides a good overview both of the programs provided in the jail as well as the staffing challenges, which are of significant concern to the County Council. Unsurprisingly, though, what stands out most from the report is the average population count over time:

Screenshot 2018-04-24 06.25.35

After a period of relative stability, we see a fairly dramatic overall increase, undoubtedly overlapping with the growth of the opioid epidemic. There have also been statutory changes in Indiana that have made local jails responsible for some people convicted of felonies who used to be the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. Clearly this growth rate is unsustainable. There are many stakeholders in Monroe County who are working on various initiatives, both present and future, to help keep the jail population down, including community corrections, treatment and recovery, pre-trial release, various diversion programs, etc. I want to highlight some of these initiatives in the near future, and grow and fund those that have been proven to be effective.

Tonight’s work session of the Monroe County Council will feature a presentation from Jail Commander Sam Crowe, who will highlight some of the initiatives and programs in the jail, and address questions from Councilmembers about the report. Of course the jail is only one component of a complex system including lawmakers, police, prosecutors, public defenders, the judiciary, and probation and community corrections, I encourage members of the public to read this report and watch the presentation tonight.

The County Council work session is at 5:30PM tonight, April 24, 2018, at the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public, and will also be televised on CATS.

$3M Upgrade to Monroe County Youth Facilities Considered

Old YSB House Before Demolition
House in Front of the Youth Shelter That Would Be Demolished

This past Tuesday, the Monroe County Council discussed a request for major capital improvements to Monroe County’s facilities for youth services, including the Binkley House Youth Shelter (located at 615 S Adams St).

 

Back in February of 2017, the County Commissioners GSD Contract in partnership with the architecture and design firm RQAW to review existing facilities and recommend a plan for renovation and expansion based on the analysis of current and future needs.

The report from the consultants was received in July 2017, and provides an extensive review of the needs of the programs, condition of existing facilities, and proposed combination of renovation and new facilities. Major recommendations include:

  1. Demolition of an old house that is currently used for a few offices and storage, and whose maintenance costs have become unsustainable (I included a picture of the house above).
  2. Additional parking along South Adams St, including improvements to allow delivery truck access, and a nature path and pavilion outside.

  3. Upgrades to the Binkley House Shelter portion of the facility, including paint, carpet, restroom upgrades, better separation of recreational from study spaces, more storage for youth belongings, and a walk-in freezer to allow more bulk purchasing. The shelter currently serves up to 15 youth; there are no plans to increase this capacity.
  4. New large multi-purpose space that can be used as a gym, classroom, group meeting room, space to take youth out of stressful situations, etc.
  5. Upgrades to the Administrative wing of the facility, including creation of small conference/meeting rooms, better waiting areas, secure file storage, additional office space, and public restrooms.
  6. Furnishings, including office furniture and furniture for the shelter.

Screenshot 2018-03-03 08.51.11
Feasibility Study

The Feasibility Study (Exhibit A) includes a description and rationale for all of the recommended upgrades, demolition, and new construction.

 

Last week, the County Commissioners approved a follow-on contract with RQAW for approximately $190K to provide detailed architectural design documents for the project. These documents would then be used to solicit bids for the demolition and construction work. This contract is subject to appropriation of funds by the County Council; the Council will consider this request at our regular meeting on March 13th.

The total cost estimate for the recommended facilities range from $2.9M and $3.2M. As per our role in the process, the County Council spent most of our time discussing potential sources of funds for the project. Options include:

  • One-time funds (in the Juvenile Services Non-Revering Fund) of around $1.1M saved from excess property taxes collected for child welfare at the time the State took over child welfare funding. The County Council earmarked this money to be spent on juvenile-related services and initiatives.
  • $1.7M in the County Per Diems fund, which consists of money paid by the State to the County for court-ordered and Department of Child Services (DCS) placements.
  • One-time funds (in the Juvenile COIT Rainy Day fund) of $164K from past distributions of the juvenile county option income tax from the State.
  • Funds in the Location Income Tax Special Purpose (formerly known as the Juvenile COIT) could potentially be used for the furnishings (not bricks and mortar construction) component of the project.
  • Future general obligation bond (paid for by a property tax rate).

It appears that a large proportion of the project (if not all of it) could be paid for out of cash (in the above funds). However, there is also concern among some (including me, along with the director of Monroe County’s Youth Services department) that it would be prudent to hold back some cash reserves, particularly in light of the turmoil and chronic underfunding in the State Department of Child Services.  One option would be to pay for a majority of the $3M out of cash savings, and the rest from bond issue.

The County Council will continue this discussion at our regular meeting on March 13, 2018, at 5:30PM.

 

2018 Monroe County Budget Order, Tax Rates Set

Monroe County Courthouse at Night
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

Last Friday, Monroe County received its 2018 Budget Order from the state, which includes:

  • The budgets for all taxing units (i.e., county, cities and towns, school districts, townships, public library, special units)
  • The property tax levies and tax rates for all taxing units
  • The property tax rates for each taxing district (i.e., the tax rates that actually affect each property owner)

The following table summarizes the total 2018 property tax rate (per $100 of net assessed value) for each taxing district in Monroe County, sorted from highest to lowest. I’ve also included the 2015-2017 tax rates for comparison.

Screenshot 2018-02-13 15.28.36

I highlighted the taxing districts that are within incorporated municipalities in aqua.

The rates for most taxing districts went up, at least partially because the maximum civil levy statewide increased by 4% (this is sort of like a cost-of-living increase for local government operating funds), and because the County established a new Major Bridge Fund for 2018 (with a tax rate of $0.0333).

The two exceptions, in which the rates went down for 2018, were Bloomington Township (unincorporated) and Washington Township. This is because of the Northern Monroe Fire Territory, which first began in 2017. The first year’s tax rates of a new fire territory are typically the highest, both because the territory needs to collect more than it needs for the year in order to create an operating reserve, and because the local income tax (LIT) associated with the new property taxes of the fire territory doesn’t come in until the next year. Bloomington and Washington Township residents thus saw a large increase in property taxes for 2017 over 2016.

Because during the second year of the fire territory (a) the territory doesn’t need to collect extra for reserves and (b) the township providing fire services (Bloomington Township) receives additional LIT, the property tax rates for the second year can be reduced, and thus both Washington Township and Bloomington Township saw overall reductions in their 2018 property tax rates over 2017.

Monroe County 2018 Budget Adoption — This Week and

2016 County Council MembersThe Monroe County Council will be adopting the 2018 budget for Monroe County this week and next. First reading of the budget, along with property tax rates and levies, will be Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. Second reading and final vote will be Monday, October 30th, 2017, also at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room. Public comment will be taken at both readings!

The Council will be voting on a $70.5M budget, spread across 51 different funds. Each fund has its own set of revenue sources associated with it, including property tax, income tax, public safety income tax, gas tax, fees for service, stormwater fees, etc.

The following table summarizes the total proposed budget to be voted on by fund. Note that for property tax funds, because of a quirk in the way that the state systems report on the property tax circuit breakers (“tax caps”), the revenue loss from the circuit breaker is actually represented as a budgetary expense.

Fund Amount
0101 – GENERAL $33,337,946
0102 – ELECTION/REGISTRATION $881,708
0124 – 2015 REASSESSMENT $731,477
0182 – BOND #2 $2,057,150
0183 – BOND #3 $1,021,096
0254 – JUVENILE INCOME TAX $2,787,355
0702 – HIGHWAY $6,826,644
0706 – LOCAL ROAD & STREET $1,650,000
0790 – CUMULATIVE BRIDGE $560,860
0792 – COUNTY MAJOR BRIDGE $40,393
0801 – HEALTH $1,280,235
1001 – CIVIC CENTER $2,037,910
2002 – COUNTY FAIR $111,440
2102 – AVIATION/AIRPORT $988,214
2391 – CUMULATIVE CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT $3,134,988
9500 – Extradition and Sheriffs Assis $8,046
9501 – Surveyors Corner Perpetuation $62,921
9502 – County Per Diems-YSB $46,250
9503 – Monroe County 911 Fund $862,635
9504 – MC Convention Center Debt $636,000
9505 – Auditors Ineligible Deductions $24,500
9508 – User Fee – Jury Pay $14,500
9509 – User Fees – Juv. Probation $18,883
9510 – User Fees – Adult Probation $317,351
9511 – User Fees – Project Income/Job $687,781
9512 – Supplemental P. D. Services $895,680
9513 – Clerks Record Perpetuation $112,569
9514 – User Fees-Diversion/Pros. $317,080
9515 – User Fees-Court Alcohol/Drug $291,709
9516 – Local Health Maintenance $72,672
9517 – Emergency Planning/Right to Know $15,900
9519 – Misdemeanant/Co Corr $117,450
9520 – Home-Rule Fund #21 $10,000
9521 – Alternative Dispute Resolution $21,000
9522 – Sales Disclosure-County Share $35,765
9523 – Conv. Visitor Cap Imp/Maint $100,000
9524 – County Offender Transportation $3,000
9525 – Local Health Dept Trust Accoun $56,424
9526 – User Fees-Problem Solving Courts $35,124
9527 – Westside Econ Dev/Rich Twp TIF $1,554,278
9528 – 46 Corridor Econ Dev/Blgtn Twp TIF $343,649
9529 – Fullerton Pike Econ Dev / TIF $95,522
9530 – Plat Book $29,118
9531 – Convention Center Operating $554,688
9532 – User Fees-Cable Franchise $699,676
9533 – Showers Building Operating $214,503
9544 – Identification Security Protection $5,500
9547 – Park Nonreverting Capital $60,000
9552 – Storm Water Management $2,753,116
9559 – County Elected Officials Train $30,000
9571 – Public Safety Income Tax $1,980,616
UNIT TOTAL $70,531,322

The full proposed budget, line item by item, can be found in 2018 Monroe County Budget Estimate (Form 1 ). Look at the column labeled “Adopted”.

If you have any questions or concerns about this budget, please contact me or any other member of the Monroe County Council. And again you can make public comment on this budget Tuesday evening (10/24) and Monday evening (10/30).