Some have argued the Bloomington Budget Task Force process was a charade to give Aldermen political cover to make unpleasant choices in higher taxes and budget cuts. But, Task Force Chair David Sage says there are two valuable things the task force provided, first an honest assessment from established leaders about the choices before the city.
"People who come out of a large business background, a small business background, a not for profit, so we had a nice cross-section of the community. So, one was to hear their feedback. How would this service change or how might these revenue increases impact you in the private sector."
Sage also said during GLT's Sound Ideas the task force offered the council more lead time to decide how to address the $7 million structural deficit than would have been the case with city staff preparing budget options and presenting them in March.
Some council members have complained there is not a clear vision for what to do with some of the expected sales tax revenue created by the one point increase approved on Monday. But, budget task force member John Zeunik said that is not the case.
"A number of people on the task force said that if the council is going to look at increasing sales tax, they should look at it and have it be very transparent to the citizens, that this money is going to be set aside for police and fire pensions."
Zeunik said the solid waste program and police and fire pension obligations amount to about three million dollars of the seven million dollar annual deficit. The city plans to start charging for the first bucket of bulk waste and will consider other fee increases being examined by a consultant.
The council has approved a sales tax hike and must now deal with proposed cuts to finalize the package. Some budget hawks in the community have criticized the task force for not dealing with cuts before there is any consideration of revenue enhancements. But, Zeunik says even the tightest of fiscal hawks should be satisfied there are enough cuts in next year's spending plan.
"I think there are. One of the recommendations is that in the preparation of the FY 17 budget, all the departments should prepare a budget that reflects a five percent cut off their current appropriation level."
Other cuts to come before the council include outsourcing or selling a golf course, and asking the airport for more reimbursement in return for air craft rescue and firefighting service.
Task force members said it is impossible to cut the city's way out of a seven million dollar a year deficit.