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Residents in downtown Indy to decide on voluntary tax for maintenance, services

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Downtown Indy, Inc., is spearheading a campaign to convince residents and property owners in downtown Indianapolis to voluntarily tax themselves $3 million a year to pay for maintenance and services the city’s core demands but the municipal budget can’t afford.

The first of three public invitation-only meetings is being held at the Columbia Club this evening to introduce the Economic Improvement District (EID) concept to downtown stakeholders.

The intent of the EID is to raise money within the Mile Square of downtown for projects at the heart of the Crossroads of America to be approved by an appointed board of downtown property owners.

“It’s a place for most of the commerce that occurs in our regional area. It’s also a place for millions of visitors to come on an annual basis,” said Sherry Seiwert, President of Downtown Indy, Inc. “This is the fastest growing neighborhood in all of Marion County. We also probably need to be thinking about all the amenities that need to be provided to those residents.”

The Downtown EID would focus on enhanced safety and security, including addressing Indianapolis’ homeless and panhandling challenges in the central core of the city, improving streetscape maintenance, beautification and cleanliness, enriching the downtown-user experience and developing marketing and planning strategies.

“The difference with an EID is that the revenue that is generated within that footprint is employed back into that footprint and not to the remainder of the county,” said Seiwert. “We think that it would raise just over $3 million annually and the determination for residents themselves, for resident owners, would be a flat fee of $100 and then for commercial property owners it would be 1/8th of one percent of their assessed value on each parcel that they own.”

If 51 percent of the property owners and those representing at least 51 percent of the assessed value approve the EID during an upcoming petition drive, the proposal would still require approval by the city county council and the mayor and lead to the naming of a board that would set a budget, file an annual report and undergo a yearly audit.

Seiwert would like the EID to begin work in 2018.

The only other Marion County community to vote itself a tax increase through an EID is the Woodruff Place neighborhood of the near east side.

Residents determined several years ago that the city would not pay for the upkeep and repairs to its 19th century fountains, planters, statuary and ornamental lights.

“We got the owners of 76.8 percent of our parcels to approve it so it was pretty overwhelming that people agreed we need to take responsibility financially as well as from a historic statement to take care of our infrastructure,” said longtime resident Tom Abeel. “I have looked at this always as making life extension investment in the infrastructure.”

Abeel said each of the approximately 250 property owners are taxed $165 a year to fund a $45,000 annual budget matched by an equal amount from the city.

“The big project for the fountains was we got brand new electricity all the way from the town hall to the middle and the west drive fountains. All brand new electrical. We’ve also been able to rebuild the pumps and the pump motors,” said Abeel. “We kind of knew that at some point it was just a matter of time before another life extending investment would have to be made and the EID’s been a terrific way to do it and the best thing is everybody in the neighborhood participates in it.”

Abeel said the greatest challenge to a downtown EID will be setting priorities that reflect both needs of private residents and those of large commercial property owners.

For more information on the Economic Improvement District, click here.