Bloomington Town Hall Addresses Fiscal Budget Concerns
In a town hall meeting hosted by Alderman Sage, Alderman Black, and Alderwoman Schmidt at the BCPA on Tuesday January 9th, the aldermen presented a short presentation on the 2019 budget deficit of $2.9 million. The cause of the budget gap is operational costs, which do not include new staff requests, capital repair for existing facilities or new bond projects.
The aldermen sought input from citizens on ways to address the budget gap after suggesting three options: cutting services, altering services, or raising taxes. When questioned about the return on investment on the City’s spending, Alderwoman Schmidt stated, "Many of the budget challenges we are facing now are due to not fully analyzing our budget. We have legacy costs that are killing us."
Proposed Budget Cuts
The council, along with Interim City Manager Steven Rasmussen, suggested privatizing solid waste pickup in Bloomington, an action that could reduce the budget gap by $1.25 million. Rasmussen pointed out, however, that although this alleviates financial burdens on the City, "citizens would have to pick up the financial cost of this service."
Rasmussen also announced his plan to present an option to "run two waste pickup shifts--one in the morning, one at night. This reduces the fleet by half. We also need to change the pickup of bulk waste to Spring and Fall pickup only."
Privatizing solid waste, offering bulk collection during only two seasons and allowing citizens to drop off bulk waste at collection sites would "eliminate $1.25 million from the deficit." Some citizens expressed concerned about student and apartment communities where bulk waste commonly lines the curbs. Alderwoman Schmidt put the responsibility on the landlords, stating, "Being a landlord is a business. Bulk Waste is a business expense."
Other suggestions from citizens included: not hiring any more consultants, not acquiring new properties, selling properties that aren't being utilized, focusing on recovering debts owed to the city, discontinuing pension spiking, and not paying for any more entertainment venues, including catalyst plans for Downtown Bloomington.
Other frustrations expressed by citizens included Bloomington's infrastructure, especially the streets, as well as a desire for more transparency with--and access to--the City’s budget.