Archive | March, 2013

911 Dispatch Funding in Monroe County

30 Mar

Although it hasn’t been reported on very widely, Monroe County Government and the City of Bloomington are currently collaborating in building a new Unified Dispatch Center for all of Monroe County’s public safety agencies on the second floor of the new Bloomingon Transit Hub. This new dispatch center will replace the antiquated joint dispatch center in the Bloomington Police Station. Besides the new building, a key upgrade will be a new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System that will greatly increase our ability to respond more quickly and accurately to 911 calls.

Last month, the County Council appropriated $1.8M out of the general fund for its share of the furnishing of the new dispatch center (the City and the County have yet to come up with a final agreement on what constitutes equitable distribution of the costs).  Debates will continue at the County in future months about how much our contribution should be, for what purposes, and how to fund the remaining costs of construction and furnishing.

Ongoing operations of the dispatch center (i.e. dispatch personnel, software maintenance, etc.) will also be funded from several sources, both City and County. The County also has access to a revenue stream that is dedicated to the funding of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), of which the dispatch center is one. This revenue comes from the E911 fees paid by landline, wireless, and prepaid wireless telephone users, and currently generates around $689K annually. However, this doesn’t cover anywhere near the costs of actually operating the dispatch center, which currently employes 25+ dispatchers. Another important policy question to be resolved is whether the other public safety agencies that are dispatched (e.g. fire departments, hospital) should pay anything towards the operation, since the Unified Dispatch Center would be providing services to them.

At last week’s County Council Work Session, I gave a short presentation on (a) the history and current state of the 911 revenue stream and (b) the interlocal agreements between the city and county, in order to give councilors some context for future decision-making on dispatch center operations. Several people have asked me for a copy of my presentation, so I thought I would include it hear.  At some point when I have time I will add some additional explanatory text.









Is an Elected Official an Employee? It Depends…

27 Mar

During a recent discussion on the implications of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) on Monroe County Government, a vigorous discussion emerged on the question of whether an elected official of an employer (i.e. Monroe County Government) counted as an employee under the Affordable Care Act, and if so, how to measure the number of hours per week an elected official works.  The distinction matters because of the new Affordable Care Act requirements to provide affordable, minimum essential coverage (these terms have precise definitions) to full-time employees (or at least 95% of full-time employees), or face a penalty.

As it turns out, the answer is complicated, and not entirely clear in the end with respect to the Affordable Care Act. An elected official is an employee, by IRS regulations. However, an elected official is not an employee by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The blog posting Is an Elected Official an Employee an excellent summary of the conflicting legal standards with respect to elected officials (although it is written from the perspective of Illinois law rather than Indiana).  It should also be noted that, contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a “full-time” elected official vs. a “part-time” elected official. Although the salaries of some elected officials (e.g., Auditor, Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk, Recorder) in Monroe County are closer to that which a full-time employee would receive, and others (e.g., County Council) are closer to that which a part-time employee would receive, there is no distinction in law or policy.

So back to the question that prompted this brief discussion — is an elected official an employee from the perspective of the Affordable Care Act? That answer doesn’t seem to exist in the Act, nor in any case law falling from the Act (as there is essentially no case law yet). The conclusion of those in the discussion I participated in was that the safest position was to treat elected officials as full-time employees and offer them health insurance (as Monroe County Government currently does).

Monroe County Council 2013-03-26 Work Session Agenda

26 Mar

Here is the agenda for tonight’s work session of the Monroe County Council. The meeting will begin at 5:30 PM in the Nat U. Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse.  Although public comment isn’t normally taken during work sessions, all meetings of the County Council, including work sessions, are open to the public (and the public is encouraged to attend).  Text in italics is my comment, not part of the official agenda.


II. PERRY CLEAR CREEK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT- Discussion of Increase in Cum Cap rate

III. COURTS, Bonnie Austin -Discussion of Filling Deputy Court Administrator Position

The Courts Administrator position was vacated when Angie Chalfant left position to become the new Commissioners’ Administrator. Per the county’s Hiring Review policy, the Courts are petitioning to be allowed to refill this position.


As has been reported in the media, funding for the Monroe County Airport (BMG) Airport Traffic Control Tower is in jeopardy by the sequester. If nothing changes, the FAA will terminate funding for the tower by September. At their last meeting, the Board of Aviation Commissioners indicated that they might approach the County Council to fund the operations of the tower locally. The purpose of this agenda item is just to give the Council an update on this possibility, and the fiscal impacts.


I will be presenting the proposed legislative calendar for consideration of the Food and Beverage Tax and the resulting Convention Center Expansion:

• Introduce legislation at April Work Session
–Tuesday, April 23
–Presentation of Legislation and Framework for Proposed Interlocal Agreement
–Presentations from Convention Center, Convention Center Building Corporation, City of Bloomington
–Covered by CATS
–Discussion but no action
• Legislation Read for First Time at May Meeting
–Tuesday, May 14
–Public hearing/public comment
–Covered by CATS
–Council discussion
• Legislation Read for Second Time at June Meeting
–Tuesday, June 11
–Public comment
–Covered by CATS
–Council discussion & vote


I will be presenting a history of the funding of the joint dispatch center in Monroe County, and give the council an update on fiscal issues to be resolved as we move forward to creating a new Unified Dispatch Center.




Gateway a Useful Tool for Reporting on Local Government Finance

17 Mar

The Indiana Gateway for Government Units — generally just called “Gateway” — is a tool developed in 2010 by a collaboration between the State of Indiana and Indiana University (the Indiana Business Research Center) to make local government financial submissions easily accessible to the public. Local units have been required to use it for the past two years for submission of standard budget documents during the fall budget process.

Although some data has been available to the public since 2011, very recently some major upgrades were released that makes it much easier for local officials and members of the public to retrieve local government financial information. Because Gateway is now to the point where it can actually be useful to members of the public, I though I would bring it to the attention of the readers of MoCoGov.

The Report Builder for Gateway is available at:

The Report Builder provides a number of pre-made reports for all levels of local government — counties, cities and towns, townships, libraries, fire districts,   school districts, solid waste management districts, etc., and the user interface is pretty intuitive.

The following are a couple of reports that might be particularly interesting to taxpayers (along with some instructions for accessing the reports).

  • Employee Compensation (100R)
    • Provides the salaries of all public employees for all levels of local government, state government, public universities, and even public charter schools
    • Choose Employee Compensation (100R) ->  Employee Compensation. Choose your county and then the unit of government within that county. For state and public university employees, choose “State” as your county.
  • Budget Estimate and Tax Rate
    • Provides the information on the Form 4B — sometimes called the “16-line statement” — submitted by local governments for each fund with a tax rate.  Includes the adopted budget, the property tax levy, and the property tax rate for each fund adopted during the fall budget process for the next year.
    • Choose Budgets -> Budget Estimate – Financial Statement – Tax Rate.  Choose your county, year, unit, and fund.
    • For example, see the report for the 2013 Monroe County General Fund below.  You can see, for example, that the general fund budget adopted by the County Council and then certified by the Department of Local Government Finance is $20,300,041, with a property tax levy of $15,097,664, and a tax rate of 0.2389 for every $100 of assessed value.

2013 4B for Monroe County General Fund

  • Budget Summary
    • Provides a summary of budget estimates for each unit of government, for each fund and department, summarized by budget category (i.e., personal services, supplies, services and charges, and capital outlays).
    • Choose Budgets -> Budget Summary
  • Line-Item Budget Estimate
    • Provides a detailed line-by-line budget for each unit of government, for each fund and department.
    • Choose Budgets -> Line-Item Budget Estimate
  • Net Assessed Value by District
    • Provides the net (after exemptions and deductions) assessed value for each taxing district in a county
    • Choose Assessed Value -> Certification of Net Assessed Values by District
    • This report is particularly interesting because it shows not only the assessed value for real property and personal property (i.e., industrial equipment), but also shows the amount of assessed value captured by Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts for each taxing district.
    • The following screen shot shows the report for Monroe County for 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 7.51.05 PM

  • Debt Management
    • Multiple reports that show all debt owed by local government. This set of reports is particularly interesting, because it shows not only the standard property tax-based general obligation bonds (for example, the Showers purchase bond), but also equipment lease-purchases, such as the Vactor and street sweeper trucks purchased by the new Monroe County Stormwater Management Program, and the Innkeeper’s Tax-backed land purchases for the Convention Center
  • Redevelopment Commissions
    • Includes links to all of the annual reports for each of the Redevelopment Commissions in each county. The Redevelopment Commissions are responsible for the TIF districts in each county. The Monroe County Redevelopment Commission annual reports concern the county’s 3 TIF districts, and the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission annual reports concern the City of Bloomington’s 6 TIF districts as well as the City’s Certified Tech Park.
  • Disbursements by Fund and Department Report
    • Shows the actual expenditures (as opposed to the budgeted expenditures) for each fund and department of a local unit of government for a prior year.
    • Choose Annual Financial Report -> Disbursements by Fund and Department. Expenditures are summarized by category (i.e., Personal Expenses, Supplies, Services and Charges, and Capital Outlays).
  • Grants
    • Grants have become an increasingly essential funding mechanism for many aspects of local government. The Grants report shows all of the Federal (including Federal pass-through) grants received by each unit of government during the previous year. Note that this report does not include local grants and grants from non-government foundations.
    • Choose Annual Financial Report -> Grants, and choose the unit of government.

My examples above only scratch the surface of the data available in the new Gateway reports. I encourage everyone interested in local government to give the system a try!

Update on Cuts to Casino Gambling Revenues

3 Mar

On February 22, I wrote about possible cuts to the casino gambling revenues received by local governments in Indiana (Riverboat Wagering Tax to Monroe County May be Cut).  Since then, Senate Bill 528 passed the full Senate and was sent to the House for consideration.

The version of SB528 that passed the Senate makes some major changes to the taxes levied on gambling businesses, including eliminating the riverboat admissions tax (paid by casinos based on the number of people that go through the turnstile at the casino, regardless of amount paid by casino patrons), and replacing it with a 3.45% supplemental wagering tax based on the adjusted gross receipts of the casino.

In addition, and of direct interest to non-casino counties such as Monroe, SB528 replaced the flat $33M/year revenue sharing arrangement (which allocated $33M of riverboat admissions taxes to local units of government in non-casino counties based on their relative populations) with a new arrangement in which 5.1% of the taxes collected (after June 30, 2014, and other than from the French Lick Casino) will be distributed to local units of government in non-casino counties.

Legislative Services Agency, in the Fiscal Impact Statement for SB528, estimates that this change will result in a net loss of $6.65M in revenue to non-casino casino counties as of FY2015 and beyond.

The Association of Indiana Counties (AIC) provides a projection of the impact of this change on each local unit of government in Indiana. I did my own projections based on the FY2015 change in overall receipts from the 5.1% tax as projected from the Fiscal Impact Statement, and came up with slightly different numbers from AIC — but they only differ by a few hundred dollars, which is well within the margin of error for the $6.65M revenue reduction, in any case.

The table below then summarizes the impact of this legislative change on Monroe County for FY2015 (including both AIC’s projections and my projections). It appears that Monroe County as a whole will see $164K or so less in revenues from casino gambling in 2015. This is clearly something that needs to be taken into account in budgeting for the next few years — but is not a game-changing (pun intended) hit to our community’s revenues for public services.

Unit of Government  2012 Distribution  AIC Projected Loss 2015 Projected Distribution (McKim) 2015 Projected Loss (McKim)
Monroe County Government  $302,078.48  $60,415.70  $241,205.09  $60,873.39
City of Bloomington  $476,312.84  $95,262.57  $380,328.59  $95,984.25
Town of Ellettsville  $37,782.77  $7,556.55  $30,168.97  $7,613.80
Town of Stinesville  $1,172.94  $234.59  $936.57  $236.37
Monroe County Total  $817,347.03  $163,469.41  $652,639.22  $164,707.81

And of course — anything could happen to this bill as it hits the House! So stay tuned…

Gas Taxes in Indiana, Part 2

2 Mar

Yesterday, I posted about how gas taxes in Indiana were calculated (Gas Taxes in Indiana). As promised, today I wanted to share some data about how Indiana’s fuel taxes (both gasoline) compare to those of other states.

Note that comparing gas taxes between states isn’t as straightforward as you might think. States use a combination of specific taxes (taxes that are based the number of units of the item or service taxed) and ad valorem taxes (taxes that are based on the value or price of the item or service taxed). To the point here, while the Indiana excise tax for gasoline is 18c per gallon (a specific tax), the non-tax part of the retail price of gasoline also is subject to the general gross retail sales tax of 7% (the same sales tax you pay for any other items purchased). So the actual taxes paid by motorists at the pump per gallon depend on the price of gasoline at the time. In analyzing the tax on fuel between states, therefore, one must use some sort of average fuel price across the state as a basis for comparison.

So how does Indiana stack up?

First, consider only the excises tax on gasoline. The following table shows the excise tax by state (based on 2012 information from the American Petroleum Institute).

State Excise Tax
Fla. 4.0
Ga. 7.5
Alaska 8.0
N.Y. 8.1
N.J. 10.5
Pa. 12.0
Wyo. 13.0
S.C. 16.0
Okla. 16.0
Ala. 16.0
Mo. 17.0
N.M. 17.0
Hawaii 17.0
Va. 17.5
Miss. 18.0
Ariz. 18.0
N.H. 18.0
Ind. 18.0
Vt. 19.0
Ill. 19.0
Mich. 19.0
La. 20.0
Tex. 20.0
Tenn. 20.0
W.Va. 20.5
Iowa 21.0
Mass. 21.0
Ark. 21.5
Colo. 22.0
S.D. 22.0
Del. 23.0
N.D. 23.0
Nev. 23.0
Md. 23.5
D.C. 23.5
Kans. 24.0
Utah 24.5
Idaho 25.0
Conn. 25.0
Ky. 26.4
Nebr. 26.7
Mont. 27.0
Ohio 28.0
Minn. 28.0
Ore. 30.0
Maine 30.0
Wis. 30.9
R.I. 32.0
Calif. 35.7
Wash. 37.5
N.C. 38.9

Indiana shares the 10th lowest rank for gasoline taxes by state.

However, when you throw in the sales tax and other taxes, the ranking changes quite a bit:

State Excise Tax Other State Taxes and Fees Total
Alaska 8.0 0.0 8.0
Wyo. 13.0 1.0 14.0
N.J. 10.5 4.0 14.5
S.C. 16.0 0.8 16.8
Okla. 16.0 1.0 17.0
Mo. 17.0 0.3 17.3
Miss. 18.0 0.8 18.8
N.M. 17.0 1.9 18.9
Ariz. 18.0 1.0 19.0
N.H. 18.0 1.6 19.6
Va. 17.5 2.3 19.8
La. 20.0 0.0 20.0
Tex. 20.0 0.0 20.0
Ala. 16.0 4.9 20.9
Tenn. 20.0 1.4 21.4
Ark. 21.5 0.3 21.8
Iowa 21.0 1.0 22.0
Colo. 22.0 0.0 22.0
Del. 23.0 0.0 23.0
N.D. 23.0 0.0 23.0
Mass. 21.0 2.5 23.5
Md. 23.5 0.0 23.5
D.C. 23.5 0.0 23.5
S.D. 22.0 2.0 24.0
Utah 24.5 0.0 24.5
Kans. 24.0 1.0 25.0
Idaho 25.0 0.0 25.0
Vt. 19.0 7.1 26.1
Nebr. 26.7 0.9 27.6
Ky. 26.4 1.4 27.8
Mont. 27.0 0.8 27.8
Ohio 28.0 0.0 28.0
Minn. 28.0 0.1 28.1
Ga. 7.5 21.9 29.4
Ore. 30.0 1.0 31.0
Maine 30.0 1.5 31.5
Pa. 12.0 20.3 32.3
Wis. 30.9 2.0 32.9
R.I. 32.0 1.0 33.0
Nev. 23.0 10.1 33.1
W.Va. 20.5 12.9 33.4
Fla. 4.0 31.0 35.0
Wash. 37.5 0.0 37.5
Ind. 18.0 20.9 38.9
Ill. 19.0 19.9 38.9
N.C. 38.9 0.3 39.2
Mich. 19.0 20.4 39.4
Hawaii 17.0 30.1 47.1
Conn. 25.0 23.6 48.6
Calif. 35.7 12.9 48.6
N.Y. 8.1 40.9 49.0

Now, Indiana ranks at the 7th highest overall gas tax. So when you compare state by state, it is critical to take into account all of the applicable taxes, not just the so-called Gasoline Tax.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), an oil and gas industry trade group and certainly not an unbiased source, nonetheless puts out some useful graphics that illustrate the magnitude of gasoline taxes by state.

The following chart  illustrates the overall tax on gasoline by state (click to enlarge).


The API numbers illustrated on the chart include all combined federal, state, and local taxes on gasoline. Note that these numbers won’t necessarily absolutely match any other set of statistics on fuel taxes, since the numbers for the states with ad valorem taxes (like Indiana’s sale tax) will depend on the prices used in the analysis, which vary by day.

Now, for diesel: the following chart illustrates the overall tax on diesel by state (click to enlarge).


This chart shows that Indiana actually has the second-highest tax for diesel fuel (used by motor carriers), after Connecticut. Remember that in addition to the 16c per gallon excise tax on diesel fuel, Indiana also assesses a motor carrier surcharge tax of 11c per gallon, which is paid quarterly by the carrier.

Of course, depending the pricing at the time, New York and California may challenge Indiana for motor carrier fuel tax supremacy!

In addition, a number of states (including California, Iowa, Michigan, Washington, Ohio, and Florida), struggling with declining infrastructure and reduced overall revenues from gas taxes (from more fuel-efficient vehicles and behavioral changes from drivers) have seen recent conversations in their respective statehouses considering raises on fuel tax, as well as more radical fee structures for road funding including Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) taxes. So this map may look quite a bit different in the foreseeable future!

Gas Taxes in Indiana

1 Mar

AGas Prices week ago I wrote about some potential changes in legislation to the way in which gas taxes are allocated to local governments for road construction and maintenance (Counties Agitate for Increased Road Funding). Since then I have received several questions about what exactly comprises the taxes paid on gasoline (and diesel) in Indiana, so I thought I’d explain how gas taxes work in Indiana.

Calculating the Gasoline Tax

In Indiana, the price that you pay at the pump for a gallon of gasoline consists of 4 elements:

  • The retail price of the fuel
  • 7% Indiana retail sales tax on the retail price of the fuel
  • 18.4c per gallon Federal gas excise tax
  • 18c per gallon Indiana gas excise tax

Just as an example, consider the gas that I paid $3.85/gallon for this morning. That price at the pump consisted of:

Retail Price  $3.260
Federal Tax  $0.184
Indiana Gas Tax  $0.180
Sales Tax (7%)  $0.228
Total  $3.85

At this particular price, taxes comprise 15.4% of the  total price paid at the pump. Since the federal and state excise taxes on gasoline are charged per gallon (rather than ad valorem, or based on the price of the gasoline), taxes comprise a smaller percentage of the overall price paid per gallon the higher the price of the gasoline.

The 18c per gallon Indiana gasoline excise tax has been the same since 2003. The 18.4c per gallon Federal gasoline excise tax has remained the same since 1993!

Calculating the Diesel Tax (for Motor Carriers)

The taxes on diesel fuel, primarily used by motor carriers (trucks), differ in rate in Indiana, but also include an additional charge: a Motor Carrier Surcharge Tax. The total price paid consists of the following components:

  • The retail price of the fuel
  • 7% Indiana retail sales tax on the retail price of the fuel
  • 24.4c per gallon Federal diesel excise tax
  • 16c per gallon Indiana excise tax (as opposed to 18c for Indiana)
  • 11c per gallon Motor Carrier Surcharge Tax (paid quarterly by the carrier)

Here is a pricing example for diesel:

Retail Price  $3.260
Federal Tax  $0.244
Indiana Gas Tax  $0.160
Surcharge  $0.110
Sales Tax (7%)  $0.228
Total  $4.00

The diesel excise tax and the motor carrier surcharge tax has been the same since 1998. Note that the 11c per gallon Motor Carrier Surcharge Tax is paid to the state quarterly by the carrier.

With this particular example, using the same retail price as with gasoline, the taxes on diesel make up 18.5% of the total price paid at the pump — making diesel in Indiana more heavily taxed than gasoline. This is true in most jurisdictions, primarily because diesel is primarily paid by motor carriers rather than individuals, and thus is less unpopular politically.

Tomorrow, I’ll put out some data comparing Indiana gas taxes to those in other statues. Hint: our gas taxes are among the highest in the nation!