The Financial State of Bloomington/Normal

By:  Victor Connor

While running for Normal mayor I met over 2,400 citizens going door to door and had significant conversations with about 700 people. Not one of them, including government employees, understood the financial state of our Twin Cities.  Or if they did, they did not dare talk about it.

Starting in January of 2012, I spent between 1,400 to 1,600 hours running for mayor.  About 400 hours of that time was spent going over financial and government documents.  And it wasn’t until about two weeks before the election that I researched what I’m about to show below. My research clearly shows that the financial burden of our Twin Cities is not sustainable.

Bloomington and Normal local governments are making it almost impossible for the poorer half of the people to afford to live here and it’s getting worse. Most people complain about property taxes, but that is now a small part of a home owner’s share of the total cost of local government. Adjusted for inflation, property taxes for home owners have gone up 37% in the twenty year period of 1991 to 2011.

At the same time, the remaining local government costs in Bloomington went up 190% and for Normal it went up 130%. These numbers are both adjusted for inflation and population growth. What makes this particularly bad is that the percent increase of the median worker during those twenty years has only gone up 4%.


What this means for a Bloomington family of  four with both parents working owning a modest $154,000 home and making two median salaries is as follows:

                                                1991              2011

Income in 2011 dollars        $51,900         $54,100

BLM govt. costs                       $3,450          $10,560

Property tax                             $3,020            $4,050

% local govt. costs                      12%               27%

And for a Normal family of four it is

                                                1991            2011

Income in 2011 dollars        $51,900       $54,100

NOR govt. costs                     $3,540            $8,510

Property tax                            $3,020            $4,050

% local govt. costs                     13%                23%

But this isn’t the total amount of taxes citizens pay. For that, you’d have to add about 20% for state and federal taxes. Thus, in 2011, the respective shares of government costs paid by citizens for the above families of four would be about 47% of their income for Bloomington citizens and 43% or their income for Normal citizens.

Now the above is for the median salaries, which in 2011 was $27,050. Some may say this is not realistic because there are hundreds of State Farmers who make $100,000 per year or more which is true, but there are a lot of retired people, children, cashiers, store clerks, waiters, cooks, roofers, yard workers, babysitters, etc who make less than $27,050. I’ve met dozens of people going door to door who told me they are going to have to leave Normal because they can’t afford to pay the increase in property taxes, when, in fact, they are getting much more hurt from skyrocketing town taxes, fees, fines, etc.

For instance, the biggest single source of income now for Normal is the 1.5% added sales tax.  It now brings in $10,000,000 per year. That tax did not exist in 1987. WJBC and the Pantagraph state that things are great in the town of Normal because they are in the black, which is true. WJBC and the Pantagraph do not tell you that the town of Normal is constantly raising the rate of taxation, adding new taxes, adding new fees, increasing the amount of fees, adding new fines, etc. every year.  So yes, they are in the black because  they are taking more and more from you!

The question needs to be asked, why are Bloomington and Normal governments so inefficient?  Why do they have to charge far more than they did twenty years ago? Are they unable to learn from what they’ve done and become better?

Finally, their inept and inefficient ways are continuing. The next twenty years will crush over half the citizens of Bloomington and Normal, unless we have meaningful change.

But all is not bad; I just received a pamphlet in the mail indicating that a softball tournament will return in Normal helping us dramatically.  I guess there is no end to the pap a town will tell us.

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