By: Diane Benjamin
Even though the Open Meetings Act calls for approving and posting minutes within 30 days, Bloomington finally has approving the minutes from 9/21/2015 on Monday’s agenda.
Maybe because this is the meeting where the 1% Sales tax increase was rushed through. Maybe they don’t want citizens to see the transcript.
That’s means you need to read it: 1% Tax Increase
Here’s some highlights:
The City’s recommendation is that the one percent (1%) breaks down to: .25% for mental
health, .25% for street resurfacing, and the other .50% would be earmarked for Fiscal Year 2017 Standard Deficit.
(Yes, the minutes say Standard Deficit)
Aldermen Sage, Fruin, and Hauman expressed opposition to putting the entire 1% into one vote, especially since .5% just goes to the General Fund.
Alderman Black stated, I am in favor of keeping this tax as one whole package, because there are really critical things that Council can mostly agree upon. We can agree on mental health and street resurfacing, but would like to have more detail about the General Fund. We need to keep this package together. We have a structural deficit and unless someone is coming to me with a specific cutting proposal, we are going to be making large cuts. This is what I have in front of me, and it has my support.
If Council does not take action, we are still going to have almost a $2 million dollar structural deficit this year. The City is facing an almost $5 million dollar deficit by 2019. Our costs are going up around 3% each year and our revenues are flat. This may mean that our BCPA is gone and we may have to layoff large numbers of people in the City. It might be as little as 75 or may be as much as 100 people.
Alderman Painter stated she appreciates the time and effort that went into this. That she is willing to take action on this. Council needs to earmark those funds in the General Fund. I do not have a problem with the information that was presented by Ms. Silva as she provided: 1/5 for Police and Fire, 1/5 for Communications, 1/5 for Street Maintenance, 1/5 for Park Maintenance, and 1/5 for Fleet Management. If our debt grows, we will have to become insolvent. When insolvency occurs, the state comes in, seize all of our assets, and they impose their own Economic Development plan onto us, which most surely involves raising taxes to the highest legal limit, and then they figure out what we are going to do.
Alderman Buragas, the purpose of the General Fund is to pay bills and payroll. We do not have a sustainable budget. If we do not pass this tax this evening, we cannot pay our bills and we cannot make payroll. That is a huge problem. She understand the concern about wanting to have the allocations upfront, but that decision is Council’s and we cannot be afraid to make this decision based on that. The City does not have a sustainable budget and unless we dramatically decrease our services, we are going to be laying off huge numbers of people. We have had numerous meetings and discussions from our budget, and we can change it to be sustainable, meaning that our costs are increasing the same as our revenue. It will not happen overnight. This current increase gives us time to have a rational and responsible approach. From my perspective, we have to do this.
Alderman Lower, this City is becoming a city in which many of our citizens may not be able to live. That is unacceptable, especially when we are expanding the zoo, expanding the library, working on an expensive lighting in downtown, expanding bike paths, more parking, etc. Council needs to look at the needs of the community, and not the wants. Council should repeal the .25% that we passed a while ago and deal with the BCPA coming up.
Alderman Fruin stated, it concerns him that Council is being rushed to make a decision without having previous conversations, and the Food and Drink tax is over 10%; we are really impacting small businesses.
Alderman Black, I do not believe that this Council has the stomach to make some of the cuts.
Alderwoman Schmidt, challenged Council stating if you do not think we could make these cuts, why would you support a 1% sales tax? If Council does not support a 1% sales tax, then we really do need to make cuts. We need to get back to the role of municipal government in peoples’ lives.
Alderwoman Buragas stated Council’s focus should be on the big picture. If Council does not pass this 1% increase tonight, we will be staring at a $7.4 million deficit next year and we will have very little time or flexibility to make changes. We are at a crisis right now and if we have reserves, I do not know that we have enough money to do that.
The Mayor directed the Council to vote, which resulted in the following:
Ayes: Aldermen Fruin, Sage, Buragas, Schmidt, Black, Hauman, and Painter
Nays: Aldermen Kevin Lower, and Mboka Mwilambwe
This is NOT a complete transcript, there is more – see the link above.
Meanwhile, tax receipts through January were higher than expected. (Without this new tax!) https://blnnews.com/2016/03/21/jan-city-managers-report-taxes/
How does a “crisis” occur with receipts above projections?