Annual Report and Presentation on the Monroe County Jail Today

The Monroe County Correctional Center and the criminal justice system that feeds it has been on my mind a lot lately. Each day, the jail reports the number of people in custody, in several different categories (e.g., secure beds, program beds, detox, etc.). Because many people are in the jail for a very short period of time, the numbers vary widely over time. Today’s count of individuals in secure beds was a whopping 290, out of a rated capacity of 248. On the other hand, that count was “only” in the low 230s back in mid-March. Clearly some of that dramatic increase is due to the combination of the onset of good weather combined with IU’s Little 500.

But even factoring out localizes spikes in jail population, it is clear that we are seeing a longer-term secular increase. Recently the County Council received the statutorily-mandated 2017 Monroe County Correctional Center Annual Jail Report.  The report is definitely worth reading in its entirety — it provides a good overview both of the programs provided in the jail as well as the staffing challenges, which are of significant concern to the County Council. Unsurprisingly, though, what stands out most from the report is the average population count over time:

Screenshot 2018-04-24 06.25.35

After a period of relative stability, we see a fairly dramatic overall increase, undoubtedly overlapping with the growth of the opioid epidemic. There have also been statutory changes in Indiana that have made local jails responsible for some people convicted of felonies who used to be the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. Clearly this growth rate is unsustainable. There are many stakeholders in Monroe County who are working on various initiatives, both present and future, to help keep the jail population down, including community corrections, treatment and recovery, pre-trial release, various diversion programs, etc. I want to highlight some of these initiatives in the near future, and grow and fund those that have been proven to be effective.

Tonight’s work session of the Monroe County Council will feature a presentation from Jail Commander Sam Crowe, who will highlight some of the initiatives and programs in the jail, and address questions from Councilmembers about the report. Of course the jail is only one component of a complex system including lawmakers, police, prosecutors, public defenders, the judiciary, and probation and community corrections, I encourage members of the public to read this report and watch the presentation tonight.

The County Council work session is at 5:30PM tonight, April 24, 2018, at the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public, and will also be televised on CATS.

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Public Hearing Scheduled on New TIF District for Cook Redevelopment of GE Plant

IMG_1864Note: This version of the posting has been revised to address some questions from an early reader.

The last stage of the process of splitting off two parcels from an existing Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district and creating a new TIF district to support the planned Cook Group redevelopment of the shuttered General Electric property in the County’s Westside Economic Development Area has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 4:30PM in the Nat U. Hill Meeting Room at the Monroe County Courthouse. This meeting of the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) will include a public hearing, followed by an anticipated vote on resolutions creating the new TIF district and pledging any TIF revenues from the new area towards paying the bonds for the redevelopment.

Old GE Plant Before Cook Renovation
Loading Docks at the GE Factory

This public hearing culminates a series of actions that began with the RDC passing an initial resolution on January 17, 2018 that stated its intention to pull the two parcels of the GE plant purchased by Cook Group out of the County’s Westside Economic Development Area (WEDA), sometimes referred to as the Richland TIF, and create a new TIF district (referred to as an allocation area in the documents) consisting solely of these two properties. Since then, the Monroe County Plan Commission and the County Commissioners have both approved this action. On February 13, 2018, the Monroe County Council approved the issuance of $6.2M in economic development bonds to support the redevelopment project.

The following map shows the proposed new TIF allocation area. The purple shaded area illustrates the City of Bloomington’s incorporated area. On October 18, 2017, Cook Group and the City of Bloomington signed an agreement for Cook to pay the City of Bloomington $100K per year for 15 years in order to avoid annexation by the City. The new TIF district would last for 25 years. Note that this proposal does not actually increase the number of parcels in Monroe County in a TIF district — it simply splits off two parcels from the Westside Economic Development Area and creates an independent allocation area out of the two.

Screenshot 2018-03-11 07.44.01

The RDC’s stated purpose for the creation of the new TIF allocation area, from Exhibit B in the resolution is:

Site clean-up and preparation; paving of parking lots; hardscape and soft-scape landscaping including streetscape improvements, curbs and sidewalks; site access improvements; and exterior building improvements. The estimated cost of the entire redevelopment project is $125 million, and the Commission’s contribution to these costs will be based on what may be financed from the new tax increment revenues derived from the project.

Based on representations of the Companies, the Commission has determined that the development will not proceed as planned without the contribution of tax increment revenues to be derived from the Cook Allocation Area to the projects described above.

Essentially, Cook is estimating the cost of the redevelopment of the sprawling factory at around $125M. The County is providing $6.2M in bond funds towards this effort to support streetscape, access, sidewalk and walking trail, and exterior building improvements to what has become a blighted area of the County’s westside — all improvements that will benefit the public as well as Cook.

The sole source of repayment of these bonds will be the additional property taxes generated from this new TIF district (the so-called “increment” in Tax Increment Finance) resulting from Cook’s redevelopment efforts. This includes both real property and personal property (equipment).  Further, the bonds have been structured so that Cook (or a related business entity) will purchase the bonds, meaning that the risk of any shortfall in revenue would be borne by Cook, not the County taxpayers. Once the bonds have been paid off, any additional revenues can be spent on improvements in this new district or in the larger Westside Economic Development Area.

Old GE Plant Before Cook Renovation
Inside the Shuttered Former GE Plant, Site of New Cook Group Project

If you really want to get into the weeds of the estimated revenues and payments from this proposed TIF district, you can see the analysis performed by the County’s financial analyst Financial Solutions Group, Inc.

One of the questions that has come up from a reader of a previous edition of this posting is why to create a separate TIF allocation area at all — why isn’t the existing Westside Economic Development Area adequate? The answer is that creating a separate single-taxpayer TIF district constrains the risk of the project. First of all, if by some chance the developer is unable to generate the required revenues to pay the bond (unlikely, but is within our due care duty to prevent against) it is only they who will suffer. The rest of the taxpayers of the westside TIF will not have to make up the difference (or have to shift resources out of other important westside projects). Secondly, if the project were funded out of the Westside, then the revenues (increment) from the rest of the Westside TIF would need to be pledged for repayment of these bonds as well. The need was to have the revenues from Cook’s investment and only those revenues pledged for repayment. The structure of an independent allocation area provides both of those protections.

IMG_1868
Power substation at Curry Pike and Profile Parkway

In my view, this project represents a generational opportunity to redevelop a blighted and abandoned factory and allow it to return to providing jobs for Monroe County residents (Cook is pledging at least 500 new jobs from the project), and also represents an effective and responsible use of tax increment finance to improve the well-being of Monroe County residents.

This public hearing gives you an opportunity to make your thoughts known about this project to the Redevelopment Commission. Please come on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 4:30PM in the Nat U. Hill Meeting Room at the Monroe County Courthouse.

Public-Private Partnership Set for Colorado Central 70 Project

Central70Narrow2This is just a quick update on a previous story. A few months ago I wrote about a major highway project in Colorado (between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport) that was planning on using a public-private partnership (P3) very similar in structure to that of the now-failed I-69 Development Partners selected to develop I-69 Section 5: Major Public-Private Partnership Highway Project Under Consideration in Colorado: Sounds Like Deja Vu All Over Again. The most interesting aspect of the $1.2B project is the lowering and covering of the interstate at one point, and the creation of a 4 acre park that connects two formerly disconnected neighborhoods on top of the cover.

Recently, Kiewit Meridiam Partners was selected to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the Central 70 project. You can find the press release here.

It will be interesting to monitor the progress of this P3, and compare performance vs. the failed I-69 Development Partners. During the debate here in Indiana, while many blamed the selected contractor, others blame the very nature of a public-private partnership for road construction. The Central 70 project will serve as a useful comparison.

 

Tolling on Indiana’s Interstates: Inching Closer?

imagesThe Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) inches closer to tolling several Interstate corridors with the June 2 release of a Request for Information (RFI) related to potential future plans for tolling of the I-65, I-70, and I-94 corridors: Request for Information Interstate Tolling Project Delivery.

INDOT is planning to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to prepare environmental studies and project development documentation for the above corridors (the RFP refers to the following corridors: 1) I-65 from I-90 to I-465, 2) I-65 from I-465 to the Ohio River, 3) I-70 from the Illinois State line to I-465, 4) I-70 from I-465 to the Ohio State line, 5) I-65 and I-70 within I- 465, and 6) I-94 from the Illinois State line to the Michigan State line). The purpose of the RFI is to seek information that will shape the release of the RFP, in particular in the following areas:

  1. Asset inventory and management in these corridors
  2. Sequence of deployment of tolling among these corridors
  3. NEPA documentation type and analytical approach for these corridors, and for the improvements identified above
  4. Contracting and procurement approaches
  5. Public outreach and information strategy
  6. Any other topics the responder believes are relevant to this RFI

IMG_2157It is clear that Indiana intends to move forward with tolling the I-65, I-70, and I-94 corridors. It isn’t entirely clear if the intention is to toll only new expansion lanes, or existing lanes as well.

It will also be interesting to see the responses to questions about “contracting and procurement approaches”, in particular to see which public-private partnership models are being encouraged.

The most interesting part of the RFI, though, is the draft proposed work plan for an agreement that INDOT already has with engineering giant HDR, Inc. to meet the requirements of Indiana House Bill 1002 (now Public Law 218) to evaluate the feasibility of tolling Indiana’s Interstates. This work plan includes the following tasks:

  1. Project Management and Project Meetings
  2. Traffic and Revenue Analysis for 5 Corridors — to conduct a traffic and revenue analysis and model (including a risk component) for the five Interstate corridors: I-64, I-69, I-74, I-94, and I-465. Note that I-69 is included in the study. Along with traffic and revenue, the task will attempt to estimate diversion rates (i.e., rates at which vehicles use other roads to avoid tolls — often a concern to local communities whose roads bear the burden of division).  The study will also attempt to estimate the toll revenue from non-Indiana residents vs. residents.
  3. Risk Analysis for I-65 and I-70 — to expand a 2015 INDOT analysis to more explicitly quantify and model uncertainty
  4. Statewide Tolling Survey — to assess the public’s willingness to pay tolls. HDR is proposing here, because of the short deadline for the project, to perform a Willingness to Pay (WTP) study, which tests a participant’s sensitivity to various price points. Interesting note:

    “An approach that HDR has found to be successful in similar WTP studies is to tell survey takers that the purpose of the survey is to explore interest in improving travel times and safety on major highways. The concept of paying toll is not introduced until the end of survey so as not to bias the experiments as people generally have negative attitudes towards toll. “

  5. Assess Economic Impact — the study will include quantitative and qualitative studies of the potential impact of tolling on Indiana’s economy, including impacts both of increased investment in infrastructure resulting from tolls as well as impacts on Indiana households.
  6. Write Report — the final report is due by October 31, 2017.

The INDOT page for open RFIs is here: INDOT RFI Page.

 

When Going Up Means Going Down: How Do the Property Tax Circuit Breakers Actually Work?

Monroe County Courthouse at Night
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

During the discussions about the City of Bloomington’s proposed annexation, I have received a lot of questions from readers about the property tax circuit breakers (“tax caps”) — like, how do they actually work, how do they affect the taxpayer, and how do they affect the local unit of government? I thought I’d answer that question first by going through a very simple (artificially simple) example.

Before I even begin with the details, let me emphasize the most mind-bending aspect of the property tax circuit breakers — an increase in property tax rates can actually make the revenue to units of government serving the property go down. How does that work?

For our example, we have to pick a taxing district. Let’s choose unincorporated Richland Township (i.e, the part of Richland Township that is outside the Town of Ellettsville). For 2017, the following table shows the tax rates that make up the overall tax rate for unincorporated Richland Township:

Screenshot 2017-04-19 19.34.56

The overall property tax rate for unincorporated Richland Township for 2017 is $1.7915 per $100 of Assessed Value. The above table shows how that rate is divided up among the various taxing units (units of government) serving that district.

So now we need to pick a property to use as an example — and I’ve picked a very specific property — a homestead with a gross assessed value of $318,600. Why have I chosen this value? Because given the above tax rate ($1.7915) and certain simplifying assumptions (no property tax relief from the income tax), this property is exactly AT its circuit breaker tax cap for Richland Township.

How do we know this? Let’s do a few calculations. First of all, the circuit breaker tax cap for a homestead property is 1% of its gross assessed value. In our example, it is $3186 (1% of $318,600). That means that the taxpayer cannot be made to pay more than $3186 in property taxes. Second of all, let’s calculate the net assessed value that the taxpayer is actually taxed on. Since this property is a homestead, it is eligible for a $45,000 homestead deduction and a 35% supplemental deduction of the remaining value, leaving a taxable net assessed value of $177,840. This means that our $318,600 property will be taxed on $177,840. Note that there may be additional deductions that this taxpayer is eligible for; however, for this example, we’ll stick with the homestead and supplemental deductions.

Applying our tax rate of $1.7915 per $100 of assessed value to our net assessed value of $177,840, we have a total property tax bill of $3186. Note that this tax bill is exactly at its circuit breaker limit of $3186!

Based on the above tax rates, each unit of government that serves this property receives the following property tax revenue:

Screenshot 2017-04-19 20.08.53

And again — this property is right at its 1% circuit breaker limit of $3186, so currently it cannot be forced to pay more than $3186.

So now let’s consider a very artificial situation. Let’s say that for 2018 every taxing unit’s property tax rate stays exactly the same except that Monroe County takes on some additional debt for capital projects, raising its property tax rate from $0.3832 to $0.4300. The following table shows what the 2018 property tax rates are in this hypothetical example compared to the 2017 rates.

Screenshot 2017-04-19 20.19.16

As I mentioned before, in this very artificial example, only the Monroe County property tax rate has changed from 2017 ($1.7915 per $100) to 2018 ($1.8383 per $100).

So first, let’s calculate this taxpayer’s 2018 property taxes overall. The following chart illustrates the taxes that would be collected by each taxing unit from this taxpayer for 2018:

Screenshot 2017-04-19 20.42.54

In 2017 they were $3186. In 2018 they are $3,269.23 ($1.8383 per $100 of AV, with the AV at $177,840). This is an increase $83.23.

But….remember that the circuit breaker is at $3186 — so $3186 is the most this taxpayer will pay! So even though the individual tax rates of each of the units of government serving this property would call for $3269.23 in taxes, the taxpayer only pays $3186. This means that there are $83.23 of taxes that the taxpayer does not pay and that the local units of government do not collect. This $83.23 is known as the circuit breaker credit — good for the taxpayer, not so much for the units of government serving the taxpayer.

CIRCUIT BREAKER CREDIT = $83.23

But how is this circuit breaker credit divided up among the units of government? Even though it was only Monroe County that raised its tax rate (in this very hypothetical example), all of the units of government share in the loss of revenue in proportion to their tax rates.

So let’s allocate the circuit breaker credit (revenue loss to the units of government) based on each unit’s proportion of the total tax rate:

Screenshot 2017-04-19 21.06.20

Before even looking at the numbers in detail, the following fact should jump right out at you:

EVEN THOUGH ONLY ONE UNIT OF GOVERNMENT RAISED TAXES, ALL UNITS SHARE IN THE PAIN!

Now the last step in the process is to calculate the actual amount collected for each unit in 2018. So let’s put it all together:

Screenshot 2017-04-19 21.20.09

The column labeled “2018 Net (Taxes – Circuit Breaker) represents the actual taxes collected from this taxpayer for 2018. Note that it sums up to $3186. This should not be a surprise, as the tax cap for this taxpayer was $3186 — they cannot be taxed more than $3186 with an assessed value of $318,600!!

But the final kicker comes from looking at the rightmost column, labeled 2017-2018 Change. This is the change in revenue from each taxing unit from 2017 to 2018. Of course the total should be $0 — since the property was at the 1% circuit breaker, no net additional revenue could be collected.

But look more closely at each individual taxing unit. Only the unit that increased taxes — Monroe County in this artificial example — actually increased its revenue from 2017-2018 — and not as much as it would have increased it without the tax caps. But every other unit, even though it did not increase its tax rates — shared in the circuit breaker loss caused by the one unit that did increase its tax rates.

So just to pick out one example — the additional debt taken on by one unit of government (Monroe County) actually caused another unit (such as R-BB School Corporation) to lose revenue.

Monroe County’s gain ($63.76) is actually R-BB School Corporation’s loss ($50.52).

So hopefully this little exercise was useful — hopefully you can now see that with the property tax circuit breakers, one unit that raises its tax rates can actually cause a real loss to the other taxing units.

I-69 Section 6 DEIS Recommendations: Quick Summary

IMG_2712A few hours ago, INDOT released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for I-69 Section 6, the final section of the Evansville to Indianapolis highway. Section 6 runs from just south of Martinsville to I-465.

Links to INDOT’s press release and the DEIS can be found here:

My (very) quick summary of the findings:

  • After 13 years of additional input and analysis, INDOT is sticking with the original route selected in the 2004 Tier 1 Record of Decision: the SR 37 corridor.
  • 4 lanes from Indian Creek (where Section 5 ends) to SR 144 north of Martinsville, 6 lanes from SR 144 to Southport Road, and 8 lanes from Southport Road to I-465
  • Using the existing SR 37 center median, with cable barriers or double sided guardrails at some locations. Note that an alternative that basically elevated I-69 through Martinsville was considered but not recommended.
  • The preferred alternative is referred to as C4.
  • Two options, with no recommendation, are provided for the interchange at Southport Road just south of I-465
  • The preferred alternative costs approximately $1.5B, assuming construction from 2020-2026
  • The final Record of Decision (ROD) and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) from the Federal Highway Administration is anticipated for 1st quarter 2018.

The following map illustrates the preferred route, C4:

Screenshot 2017-03-17 21.24.06

The full DEIS is thousands of pages long. I strongly recommend you start with (and maybe stay with) the executive summary. S.6 provides a good summary of the rationale for the route selected. In addition Chapter 3: Alternatives: C4 Mapbook provides detailed and summary maps of the recommended alternative.

INDOT is accepting public comment through May 8 via the comment form at www.in.gov/indot/projects/i69/2463.htm or by mail to the I-69 Section 6 project office, 7847 Waverly Road, Martinsville, IN 46151. In addition, several public meetings are planned. For details, see the INDOT press release.

Public Transit Income Tax Advances in Indy

5858d1eb856ac-imageToday’s Indy Star reports that a proposal for a 0.25% local income tax in Marion County to support public transit expansion passed a key committee vote yesterday, sending the vote to the full City-County Council on February 27th:

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/marion-county/2017/02/21/marion-county-transit-tax-gets-committee-approval-heads-full-council/98200340/

Back in November, this tax increase to fund public transit passed in a referendum handily by 59.3% to 41.7%.

In the past we have discussed a potential income tax dedicated to public transit expansion here in Monroe County. The revenues would be shared between Bloomington Transit and Rural Transit, and would potentially fund both expansion of transit within the existing city boundaries (both in terms of additional routes and stops, and potentially more frequent service and/or Sunday service), as well as additional point to point service in the rural areas. Of course, the extent of city boundaries may change with a potential annexation, which could have a large impact on the services able to be provided by Rural Transit (a topic for a different post).

Such a tax in Monroe County would require additional state legislation. Senator Mark Stoops has introduced several pieces of legislation (and has been for several years) that would give Monroe County the ability to (but not require it to) pass an income tax between 0.1% and 0.25% to fund transit expansion. Senator Stoops’ proposed bills for the 2017 session are:

  • Senate Bill 371, which is specific to Monroe County
  • Senate Bill 391, which applies to all counties except those that already have the authority under existing legislation

Neither of these bills would require a referendum/public question. Also, it appears so far that neither of these bills will receive a committee hearing this session.

This is where I am interested in hearing from Monroe County constituents. What do you think about a potential increase in income tax dedicated to public transit expansion? Please let me hear your thoughts.

Just for reference, here are our existing local income taxes:

  • Expenditure – Certified Shares (all-purpose local income tax, distributed county, cities and towns, townships, public library, fire protection districts, Bloomington Transit): 0.9482%
  • Expenditure – Public Safety (distributed to the county, Bloomington, Ellettsville, and Stinesville): 0.2500%
  • Property Tax Relief (replaces property tax): 0.0518%
  • Special Purpose (Juvenile services): 0.095%
  • Total Income Tax Rate: 1.345%