In a speech on Thursday called "Recovering Forward," Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton proposed a raft of spending initiatives aimed at boosting the local economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a new 0.25% local income tax.
From his speech: "I know it is rarely popular to raise revenues, and that it is not easy during times of economic pressure. But we cannot Recover Forward without it. Without it, we will shortchange our future and Bloomington’s potential. And, being one of the lowest-tax cities in a low-tax state in one of the lowest-tax countries, we have fiscal room to do so. Recover Forward lets us dedicate these resources toward those most in need, and toward the Bloomington we want to become."
Click here for a transcript. A video of his speech is available at the bottom of that page.
In January, the mayor proposed an 0.5% local income tax for sustainability initiatives, but that proposal was abandoned when the pandemic hit.
The mayor does not have the authority to enact a local income tax (LIT). It would need to be approved by the elected fiscal authorities in Monroe County, including the Bloomington City Council and Monroe County Council, in weighted votes based on the proportion of the population that elected officials of each entity represents. Because Bloomington is the largest population base, an eight-vote majority of the Bloomington City Council could pass a LIT for the entire county.
About half of the proceeds would go to the county government.
Monroe County is accepting applications from locally-owned businesses located outside the City of Bloomington that need support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for the application.
The county has allocated $200,000 from its share of Food & Beverage Tax revenues for this purpose. The 3-page application was posted on Thursday, March 26. An introductory section states:
"Completing the application does not guarantee that funding will be made available. The scope of funding will be reviewed weekly by the Board of Commissioners.
In addition to restaurants and bars, other locally-owned businesses that support tourism are encouraged to complete the survey if they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Commissioners recognize that while there are some long-term funding opportunities for businesses, short-term assistance may be vital for the survival of our local economy."
The City of Bloomington is in the process of allocating up to $2 million of its Food & Beverage Tax revenues for a similar purpose, but has not yet developed an application process to receive those funds.
A lively discussion on the proposed local income tax increase was the focus of the March 6 WFIU Noon Edition. Panelists included Mary Morgan, the Chamber's Director of Advocacy & Public Policy; Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton; Bloomington City Councilmember Matt Flaherty; and Ellettsville Town Councilmember William Ellis.
Click here to listen.
The panel was moderated by WFIU's Bob Zaltsberg and Sara Wittmeyer, who also took questions from listeners calling in or emailing.
The Chamber has not yet taken a position on the income tax proposal, as few details have been provided about how the money would be spent in the proposed Sustainability Investment Fund. We continue to advocate for transparency and accountability in all aspects of government, as well as for broad public engagement in decision-making.
The City of Bloomington is hosting a forum on Thursday, March 5 to discuss priorities for a new Sustainability Investment Fund and a possible increase in the local income tax to support the fund. The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Mill, 642 North Madison St.
According to a city press release, the format will include a brief presentation, followed by opportunities to discuss topics with subject-matter experts. Those topics include the city's "comprehensive response to climate change, how the fund might support social equity, and the possibilities the fund could create in areas from transit and other mobility options to sustainable housing and green infrastructure, among others."
A light meal will be provided. The city is also asking residents to share comments and suggestions about the Sustainability Investment Fund via this online form.
On Jan. 1, Mayor John Hamilton announced a proposal to increase the local income tax by 0.5% for Monroe County residents, raising about $16 million annually – half for the city, half for the county – to be used for economic development purposes. Hamilton proposed using the city's share for sustainability initiatives that have not yet been determined. The tax could be enacted if approved by the majority of the Bloomington City Council.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is one of the economic development arrows in the quiver of municipal financing. In the City of Bloomington, TIF funds are overseen by the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission.
Click here to read the city's 2019 annual TIF report.
At the RDC's June 3 meeting, the group received an annual report on TIF revenues and allocations. (You can watch the presentation on CATS here and view the Powerpoint here.) In 2019, TIF revenues are projected to reach about $10.6 million.
How does TIF work? TIF is a way to“capture” certain property taxes to be used in a specific geographic district – taxes that would otherwise be used by entities with the authority to levy taxes in that district. In Bloomington, a portion of the property taxes that would otherwise be collected by taxing units (like the city, county, and public schools) is instead used by the city for projects within the TIF district. In Bloomington, six TIFs are combined into a consolidated district. Click here for details about the city's TIF, including maps of the TIF districts.
How are TIF revenues calculated? The captured tax is only that which applies to the difference between (1) the baseline value of the property when the district was first formed, and (2) the value of the property after new construction or improvements to the property. That difference is the “increment” in “tax increment finance.”
Projects funded by TIF revenues include Switchyard Park, the Trades District, street and sidewalk repair, and redevelopment of the IU Health Hospital site. Future projects might include funding the expansion of the Monroe County Convention Center.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy