LETTER: Downtown Indy tax needs more scrutiny

December 9, 2017

Concerning the Nov. 18 article “Proposed fee for Mile Square property owners attracts opposition,” it is important for property owners to understand what they are being asked to approve. Downtown is a success story where tourism and demand for housing are up, office vacancies are down, and restaurants and businesses are flocking to the area. However, Downtown Indy—organizers of the proposed Mile Square Economic Improvement District—have not demonstrated a need for $31 million in additional taxes over 10 years.

The proposed EID contains 500 homeowners limited to paying $100 each year, leaving the approximately 700 business parcels, for whom new taxes are assessed on property value, to shoulder 95 percent of the $3.1 million annual cost. The Indiana Apartment Association represents members with properties valued at more than $288 million in the Mile Square. Multifamily property owners’ per-unit tax burden downtown is already considerably higher than other communities, so residents pay more for housing than they would at comparable properties located elsewhere in Indianapolis or in surrounding communities such as Fishers and Carmel.

Downtown Indy’s current annual budget is $3.6 million, and the EID would generate roughly $3.1 million annually. Coincidence? To shift from a voluntary membership, dues-funded organization to an involuntary tax-funded body deserves extra scrutiny, especially when state law allows EIDs to have bonding authority, raise assessments annually and change boundaries by simply notifying impacted properties.

The proposed Mile Square EID budget lists many initiatives already being spearheaded by Downtown Indy. For example, Downtown Indy previously announced plans to hire personnel to address panhandling, but there was no mention of this being contingent upon approval of new taxes. The budget also details spending just $100,000 for off-duty uniformed police officers each year. Meanwhile various beautification efforts would receive $1.5 million annually. Earmarking so much funding for beautification efforts within public areas is a major concern. Commercial property owners, responsible for covering more than 95 percent of the proposed EID’s cost, must ask precisely what its tangible benefits will be.

Clearly, these and many other concerns must be addressed before anyone should sign a petition for a new taxing authority that would exceed existing property tax caps, spend money on items of questionable merit and opaquely incur debt affecting the future of all Indianapolis citizens.


Lynne Petersen, president
Indiana Apartment Association

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