Archive | August, 2014

Preview of Tomorrow’s Monroe County Council Meeting (2014-08-12)

11 Aug
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

Monroe County Courthouse at Night

The agenda and packet for tomorrow’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is available here:

Following are the highlights of the agenda:

  • The Assessor is requesting to refill a vacant position (Third Deputy/Administrative Assistant to the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals)
  • The Monroe County CARES Board is requesting an appropriation of the annual grant allocation of $81,484. Monroe County CARES  (CARES is not an acronym, by the way) is the local coordinating council of the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana. The purpose is to coordinate, support, and promote local efforts to prevent and reduce harmful involvement with alcohol and other drugs. The funding comes from drug and alcohol-related court fees, and the grants are divided between prevention, treatment, and criminal justice services.
  • The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) is requesting the appropriation of $116,553 for the Runaway and Homeless Youth grant they received, which funds a full-time counselor and a full-time Safe Place Coordinator/YSB Shelter Outreach Coordinator. This is a very important grant for youth services in Monroe County.
  • The Health Department is requesting the appropriation of a $21,103 grant for bio terrorism prevention and response from the Indiana State Department Of Health, Preparedness Division.
  • The Probation/Community Corrections department is requesting the appropriation the remainder of an already-awarded $11,970 Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, provided by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) to support training for staff to work in a “change based” supervision environment (as opposed to a “compliance based” environment).
  • The Probation/Community Corrections department is requesting an additional appropriation of $7700 from the County’s COIT fund to provide security during day-reporting time (7AM-9AM) at the Johnson Hardware/Community Corrections building. The large number of community corrections participants (day reporting, drug screens, road crew, drug court, home detention and juvenile probation appointments) during a short period of time have created significant safety concerns, including traffic jams on the alley, disorderly conduct, and even drug dealing. Community Corrections is requesting contract funding for an off-duty Bloomington police officer to provide security for Community Corrections during the two hours daily during weekdays.
  • The Public Defender is requesting both permission to refill two vacant positions and for an additional appropriation out of their supplemental fund (state funding) to accommodate the mid-year increases in salary for the Chief Public Defender and Chief Deputy Public Defender in order to match the mid-year increase provided by the state for the Prosecuting Attorney.
  • The Monroe Circuit Court is requesting an additional appropriation of $75,000 out of the County’s COIT fund for the pauper attorney line. This line is spent in two ways: (1) Pauper attorneys are private attorneys that are appointed to indigent defendants when there would be a conflict of interest with the Public Defender (i.e, an attorney in the Public Defender’s office may represent a co-defendant); and (2) Guardians ad Litem may be appointed in adoption, dissolution, guardianship, and juvenile delinquency cases. During the 2014 budget sessions last year, the Court originally requested $150,000; however, due to budgetary constraints that request was reduced by the Council to $75,000. That request was based on the anticipation of spending an excess of $160,000 for 2013 and no anticipated reduction for 2014. Actual expenditures for 2013 were $168,302. Projected expenditures for 2014 could exceed $180,000 to $200,000.
  • The Prosecutor has several requests:
    • To move two positions — a legal secretary and a paralegal, from the Pretrial Diversion fund into County General. These two positions perform general prosecutorial functions and are not related to the Pretrial Diversion program. The degree to which the Pretrial Diversion program should subsidize basic prosecutorial operations has been a significant source of debate over the last 8 years. Because the revenues for Pretrial Diversion have decreased so much in recent years, the Prosecutor is requesting that the positions be moved into County General retroactively to the beginning of the year, at an expense of $68,416 for 2014. We anticipate that these positions will also show up in the Prosecutor’s request for funding from the 2015 County General budget.
    • To create the position and appropriate $36,869 of grant funding for the position of Sex Crimes Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Investigative Assistant from the Office of Violence Against Women via Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
  • The County Council office is requesting an amendment to the salary ordinance, in order to raise their part-time maximum rate from $20/hour to $30/hour, in order to hire a short-term (two weeks) part-time assistant to prepare budget databases and spreadsheets for the upcoming budget hearings.
  • There may be several County Council appointments to boards and commissions, including the Parks Board, Bloomington Economic Development Commission, Monroe County Women’s Commission, and Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

As with all County Council meetings, this meeting is open to the public. Public comment will be taken at the beginning of the meeting, as well as in conjunction with all items on the agenda. The meeting will also be broadcast live on CATS. Hope to see you there!

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Karst Farm Greenway Under Construction

7 Aug

After 8 long years of waiting, construction on the Karst Farm Greenway, the north-south backbone of Monroe County’s active transportation network, has finally begun.

I have written about the Karst Farm Greenway previously here:  Karst Farm Greenway Plans Advance. That posting includes some additional maps.

Phase I of the Greenway begins at Karst Farm Park to the south, and ends at the intersection of Loesch Road and West Vernal Pike to the north. The northern end of Phase I is just east of Innovation Court, where the new Northwest YMCA is located. A multiuse trail already exists that will connect the Karst Farm Greenway to the YMCA.

Here is a map of Phase I:

Karst Farm Greenway Phase 1

Karst Farm Greenway Phase 1

 

I am also including some photos of the construction of the greenway. This is the northern end, at Loesch and Vernal Pike, where the construction began (working from north to south). The asphalt at the bottom of the picture is the existing trail that connects to the YMCA.

Dave O’Mara is the contractor.

 

Northern End of Phase I, on Vernal Pike East of Innovation Court

Northern End of Phase I, on Vernal Pike East of Innovation Court

The trail continues south along Loesch Road, where it then cuts over to the west, to connect with Wayne’s Lane.

Karst Farm Greenway Along Loesch Before Wayne's Lane

Karst Farm Greenway Along Loesch Before Wayne’s Lane

The trail then cuts through the woods to Wayne’s Lane.

 

Connection from Loesch Road to Wayne's Lane

Connection from Loesch Road to Wayne’s Lane

 

The trail runs right up to the end of Wayne’s Lane. In the picture you can see where it gets very close to the house of a friend of mine. She would definitely prefer that it not be quite so close to her house. I am hoping the county will be able to plant more of a visual buffer when the project is complete.

 

Trail at Wayne's Lane

Trail at Wayne’s Lane

Then, the trail parallels Wayne’s Lane, running to Profile Parkway.

Wayne's Lane to Profile Parkway

Wayne’s Lane to Profile Parkway

The trail passes right by the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, on Profile Parkway.

 

Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

Then the trail crosses and cuts west along Third Street, and then cuts back south along Cobblestone Street and then to Park Square Dr to West Gifford, to Endwright Road.

Trail Through W Gifford Road

Trail Through W Gifford Road

The trail runs down Endwright Road.

Trail Along Endwright Road

Trail Along Endwright Road

Finally, the trail turns from Endwright Road into Karst Farm Park, which will be the southern terminus of the Karst Farm Greenway.

Trail from Endwright Road Running Into Karst Farm Park

Trail from Endwright Road Running Into Karst Farm Park

All in all, this is great news for supporters of the trail!

Watch for more news on the Karst Farm Greenway soon, as the bid will likely be awarded in the next week or two for Phase IIA, which will go north along Loesch Road from Vernal Pike up to the railroad. I’ll post more news when that bid is awarded.

2015 Income Tax Projections for Monroe County Received – 2.8% Increase

4 Aug

On August 1st, the Indiana State Budget Agency released the estimates of local option income tax collection (County Option Income Tax, or COIT) for each county, to be distributed for the 2015 budget year. The projections show Monroe County’s collections of its 1% COIT at $26,909,660, an increase of $712,539, or 2.8%, over the collections for 2014. In addition, the special Monroe County Juvenile COIT, used to fund juvenile services, is projected to jump from $1,309,856 to $2,556,418, an increase of $1,246,562, resulting from a recent hike in the Juvenile COIT rate from 0.05% to 0.095% that takes effect October 1, 2014.

Income tax is one of the primary sources of revenue to fund non-highway general operations of County Government — property tax is the other. Along with the annual “cost of living” increase in the property tax levy (2.7% for 2015, see State Releases Assessed Value Growth Quotient for Local Governments), the annual certified local option income tax collection is one of the most carefully-watched numbers in local government, since those two numbers determine to a large degree what the budgets of local units of government look like for the ensuing year.

The COIT collections are important not only because of their importance  to local governments as a source of revenue, but also because they serve as a barometer of the local economy (albeit a bit lagged). The following chart shows the overall COIT collections (not counting the Juvenile COIT) from 2008 to the current projection for 2015 in Monroe County. As the chart illustrates, our COIT, and therefore the income of local residents, has been going up relatively slowly but steadily since 2011, after a relatively sharp plummet from 2010-2011.

Monroe County Option Income Tax 2008-2015

Monroe County Option Income Tax 2008-2015

The income tax numbers that were just released are only projections; the state is required to release the official income tax certification before October 1. However, in the past the official September certifications have not differed from the August projections significantly. In fact, the income taxes to be paid out for 2015 (local units of government receive approximately equal monthly payments throughout 2015) have actually already been collected from Monroe County residents during the period of July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014.

The $26,909,660 projected for Monroe County for 2015 will be divided among all of the local units of government in Monroe County that receive COIT: Monroe County Government, the City of Bloomington, the towns of Stinesville and Ellettsville, the Monroe County Public Library, Perry Clear Creek Fire Protection District, and all of the township governments. The total income tax for Monroe County is divided up among all of these local units of government; each unit’s share — called Certified Shares — is determined roughly in proportion to each unit’s property tax levy as a fraction of the whole (with an adjustment for new debt, so that taking on debt doesn’t entitle a governmental unit to a higher proportion of the income tax). This distribution of the total COIT among the various local units of government has not yet been released.

All in all, the COIT projections are good news for local governments; although we are not seeing the sharp annual increases that we did before the recession hit, we are seeing another year of modest but steady growth. Good for the local economy, good for residents of Monroe County who, on average, are earning more, and good for the local units of government tasked with serving the local residents.

For reference, I have written about local option income taxes in Monroe County several times in the past: