Bloomington Town Hall Focuses on Budget Gap

 Residents listen to a presentation from Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy and Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman at a Town Hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Breckenridge HOA Clubhouse, Bloomington. (Image Credit: Breanna Grow)

Residents listen to a presentation from Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy and Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman at a Town Hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Breckenridge HOA Clubhouse, Bloomington. (Image Credit: Breanna Grow)

Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy and Ward 8 Alderwoman Diana Hauman told constituents they’ll have to make some tough choices to shore up a $2.9M budget deficit, including possible changes to the city’s solid waste service.

Mathy and Hauman met with approximately 30 residents at a Town Hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Breckenridge HOA Clubhouse in Bloomington, sharing ideas from Monday night’s council meeting to balance the budget.

Mirroring the aldermen’s Monday night discussion, residents focused on the city’s idea to reduce bulk and brush waste collection to recoup the $1.1M lost on the service.

Bloomington Director of Public Works Jim Karch suggested reducing the frequency of service to monthly or quarterly, with paid on-demand pickup. The City currently collects bulk and brush waste every other week, a service that made up 65% of the department’s overall costs in 2014, Karch said.

“The city gets bogged down all the time in talking about waste removal,” said Mathy. “Nobody wants to let go of the services that they’ve always had.”

Mathy said flat property and sales tax revenues coupled with rising costs means the city will have to raise the price for services or find new ways to pay for them.

“We have great service and we have great people who do a wonderful job, but there’s a price tag associated with that,” he said.

Karch also proposed splitting trash collection into two shifts, which would reduce the number of vehicles and employees needed to run the service. Karch said the department would shift those employees to other tasks like street repair.

Rather than cut services or raise fees, the City could choose to get out of the trash business altogether. On Monday, aldermen asked Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen to introduce a resolution at the next council meeting to begin researching the topic.

Without the City collecting waste, residents would have to pay out of pocket for privately owned services.

“Yes, we’re asking citizens to pay for some things that used to be part of their property taxes, but times have changed,” Hauman told residents Tuesday night. “We either have to be willing to cut the service or pony up what it actually costs us to do it.”

Hauman said the current brush and bulk waste collection service costs taxpayers around $27 per household on top of a $16 monthly cart fee for trash pickup.

Residents also asked about the city’s idea to create an estimated $200,000 by imposing a new business registration fee. A tiered approach would assess a one-time or annual fee based on square footage for commercial businesses.

Hauman said the fee wasn’t business-friendly, although she and Mathy agreed a registration service could help the city gather important information for emergency response and code enforcement.

Aldermen will continue to discuss solid waste pickup and other ideas to close the budget gap at the next council meeting on February 12.