Make that $128,000 of taxpayer money that local elected officials will hand the Bloomington Economic Development Commission next year. The Monroe County Council last week preliminarily approved adding $50,000 in county funds to the $78,000 BEDC subsidy that the City Council approved last month.

Both councils will hold public hearings on those budgets over the next two weeks. The public will be allowed time to address any aspect of the budgets at those meetings, including the BEDC subsidy.

County Attorney Steve Galvin said the County Council's public hearing will be Tuesday, Sept. 3, in the Courthouse third floor meeting room. The Council will begin its meeting at 4 p.m., with public comment on the budget scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

City Council Attorney Dan Sherman said there will be two public hearings on the overall city budget on Sept. 4 and 11. Those meetings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the Showers Building.

At county budget hearings last Monday, Councilman Scott Wells proposed that the BEDC subsidy be reduced to zero, with the money going toward county employee raises. In a year when worker raises will be negligible due to alleged budget shortfalls, Wells said $50,000, when combined with a $100,000 appropriation from the County Option Income Tax fund, would provide an extra $300 for each full-time employee and $150 for each part-time.

His proposal lost 5-2, with Mark Stoops voting with him and David Hamilton, Joni Reagan, Marty Hawk, Doug Duncan and Jeff Ellington voting against him. Wells said he's not alone in his assessment that subsidizing the BEDC while giving county workers short shrift is a gross injustice and an indictment of the council majority's attitude toward those who do the county's day-to-day work.

"The department heads that I talked with told me that they would feel 'insulted' if the BEDC was to get their $50,000 taxpayer subsidy from county government, but they would not get a raise," he said.

The BEDC is a "public-private partnership" that has been effectively handed responsibility for charting the Bloomington community's economic development. It has 66 members, more than 60 percent of whom engage in business activities that directly or indirectly profit from the conversion of green space to commercial development. Nearly half - 42 percent - are financial institutions, contractors, utilities and land developers.

All but five nongovernmental BEDC members pay $5,000 in dues and receive one vote each. City and County governments together get four memberships and four votes for $128,000 in taxpayer funds.

Wells says there is no justification for giving public funds to an organization that has denied membership to companies on philosophical grounds and has the wherewithal to raise its own money.

"Remember, if they want more money for their operating expenses, they can simply recruit more $5,000 paying memberships," he said. "County government, whose budget shortfall is extremely serious and can't find the revenue for providing mandated services or giving employees raises, cannot do that."