BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington's city staff will draft a resolution about outsourcing the city's solid waste program to a private vendor, but that doesn't mean the City Council is headed in that direction as it explores ways to close a $2.9 million budget deficit for fiscal 2019.

Aldermen unanimously agreed in a straw poll at Monday night's council meeting to give interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen the green light to bring such a resolution to the council. That would allow the council to take a definitive vote on it.

"That's a way of laying it rest," Rasmusssen told the council after Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black suggested the resolution, even though Black said he would vote against it.

"If the council votes that they don't want to do that then we know we can come back with some other options," said Rasmussen about the resolution he will bring to the council to vote on Feb. 12. "If it does, then we can at least explore it. Frankly it doesn't commit you to do that." 

Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch told the council solid waste collection costs the city about $7.4 million a year. After fee revenue, the city needs to fill a $1.1 million gap, which is roughly a third of the total budget deficit, he said.

Karch presented the council with three options to close that gap: increase fees, reduce service levels or outsource the program to a private vendor.

Karch said he wanted to focus on "reducing service levels to stay within the current fees" for weekly collection of trash and recyclable items.

Karch was among several city department heads who spoke at the council's meeting about nine options for closing the deficit in the city's proposed $214 million budget for fiscal 2019, which begins May 1.

Those options included leaving 10 positions with an average annual salary of $50,000 open as they become vacant to produce $500,000 in savings. Others called for extending paid parking hours at city parking garages, creating a new business registration fee based on a business' square footage and creating an annual fee of $500 per video gambling terminal.

Karch suggested collecting bulk waste at the curbside once in the spring and once in the fall instead of on the current schedule of every other week and charging a fee for specially arranged pickups at other times.

Savings also could come from cutting the city's garbage and recycling collection teams from three to two, running a morning shift and an evening shift. That change could result in four fewer automated garbage trucks, each ranging in cost from $325,000 to $360,000 to purchase.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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