Last week the Bloomington City Council unanimously approved a 51% increase to the local income tax rate that applies to all Monroe County residents. The tax increase will generate about $14.5 million in new annual revenue to fund additional economic development initiatives proposed by Mayor John Hamilton that address climate change preparedness, equity and quality of life, public safety and essential city services. Under the new local income tax rate, Monroe County government will also receive a new annual influx of $9.5 million and the town of Ellettsville will receive roughly $1 million in new annual revenue.
While the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce did not support a 51% increase to the local income tax rate, we did support new revenue that would provide the needed resources to fully fund our public safety and law enforcement services as well as certain enhancements to public transit services. The Chamber calculated that these investments would cost Monroe County taxpayers $7 million or about half of the amount that the city of Bloomington ultimately approved.
Now that the local income tax debate has been settled, the Chamber looks forward to working with local elected leaders to ensure that these investments deliver strong dividends for the residents, workers, and businesses of Monroe County.
Among the mayor’s newly proposed economic development investments that is of particular interest to the Chamber is the creation of an East/West express transit route that would serve the Park 48 education and employment hub located on West Third Street. Area employers such as Cook, Baxter, Tasus, KeHe and their employees would benefit greatly from these expanded transit options. Ivy Tech’s Bloomington campus and the students it serves would also benefit immensely. The Chamber encourages elected leaders to act swiftly with the new income tax revenue and commit to making an East/West express transit route a reality for our community.
The Chamber of Commerce also agrees that critical, new public safety investments must be made at both the city and county levels, and we strongly supported generating new revenue for this purpose. The most fundamental role of government is to provide for the safety and welfare of its residents. With an influx of new income tax revenue on the horizon, local leaders must commit to fully funding our public safety operations across the full spectrum of services. These public safety investments are essential to the welfare of our citizens and vitality of our businesses. The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with elected leaders and community members to support innovative solutions that will match existing public safety challenges with the trained experts who are best equipped to solve them.
Don’t forget the convention center
While on the topic of new economic development investments for our community, let’s also not forget the tremendous untapped potential of an expanded downtown convention center and the economic benefits it will bring to our area and region. In 2017 a countywide food and beverage tax was passed for the purpose of expanding the existing Monroe Convention Center. Over $12 million has been collected to support the construction and expansion project, but sadly no progress has been made since. The Chamber of Commerce continues to advocate for meaningful progress on the convention center expansion plans, and we look forward to the transformative boost it will bring to our local economy. Let’s make this the year that local officials work together on the convention center expansion project for the benefit of the greater community.
Eric Spoonmore is president and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Chamber: Economic initiatives tied to income tax increase needed soon