The president of the Indianapolis City-County Council will attempt to take advantage of a new state law that sets the stage for imposing a fee on property owners in the Mile Square to pay for beautification and public safety efforts in the downtown district and provide funds for a low-barrier homeless shelter.
President Vop Osili, a Democrat, said he would introduce a proposal at Monday night’s council meeting that would create an economic enhancement district and set into motion the creation of a district board that could impose a fee that would generate about $5.5 million a year.
Under the proposal, owners of single-family, residential parcels would pay a $250 flat fee, while other properties would have a fee rate of 0.1681% of assessed value. For instance, owners of non-residential properties and apartment buildings with a gross assessed value of $1 million would pay $1,681 towards the district, while a property valued at $25 million would pay $42,025.
Osili’s announcement comes two days after a municipal election in which Democrats retained their supermajority on the City-County Council and Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett won his third term over Republican Jefferson Shreve. It also comes amid ongoing urging by the Indy Chamber to take action before the Legislature reconvenes in January and opponents potentially try to undo the council’s authority to move forward with the new fee.
“This is a critical tool to help downtown thrive and attract new residents and businesses,” Osili said in written remarks. “The Mile Square faces the unique challenges of all large urban centers and an EED will allow for targeted investment to maintain our clean, safe, and beautiful downtown. This will include day-to-day operations and maintenance to ensure a vibrant downtown, 365-days-a-year, as well as increased homelessness outreach and housing hub operations.”
Hogsett’s office said in a written statement that the mayor has been “supportive of a sustainable funding solution for the City’s current $3.5 million partnership with Downtown Indy Inc. on efforts around public safety, cleanliness, and homelessness outreach. He looks forward to reviewing the Council’s language around the creation of the Economic Enhancement District.”
One-time federal funding provided by the city through the American Rescue Plan Act allowed for the creation of an 18-month pilot program operated by Downtown Indy Inc. to provide enhanced downtown services. Now the city is looking for long-term funding to sustain the program aimed at helping downtown continue to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout.
Downtown Indy said the pilot program this year has resulted in the collection of 5,000 additional bags of trash, the clean up of 1,000 graffiti sites, more outreach to the homeless and an increased public safety presence.
Under the new state law, funds from the proposed enhancement district would be governed by an eight-member board made up of both state and local appointees, which will require Democratic city leadership to work in tandem with Republican-dominated state government.
The board would consist of:
- Four state-appointed members: Two would be appointed by the Indiana governor, one by the speaker of the house, and one by the senate president pro tempore.
- Four local-appointed members. Two appointees would come from the mayor and two from the Democratic-dominated City-County Council.
A majority of the board members must be downtown property owners. Board meetings would be open to the public, and the annual budgets of the board would be submitted to the City-County Council for review and approval.
Downtown Indy Inc. would administer the funds, but the board itself would set the budget and approve any special projects.
Osili’s proposal to set it all in motion will be introduced Monday evening at the full meeting of the City-County Council. A complete presentation of the proposal will occur at the Nov. 20 meeting of the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee.
Members of the public will be permitted to comment following that presentation, held in the Public Assembly Room of the City-County Building at 5:30 p.m.
The measure would need the committee’s approval before it could move to the full council for a final vote.
The City-County Council voted down a similar measure in 2018, but it got bogged down in a dispute over whether enough petition signatures had been gathered to advance the proposal.
The new state law does away with the petition requirement for Indianapolis. Indy Chamber led the last-minute charge to win approval for the new law in this year’s Legislature. The Indiana Apartment Association fought hard to stop the change and has previously opposed such fee enhancements.
Downtown Indy CEO Taylor Schaffer said she expects more support from both downtown property owners and Indianapolis City-County Councilors than in 2018.
The proposed $5.5 million budget for the enhancement district would provide:
- $1.025 million in public safety efforts, like B-link camera grants, off-duty patrols and safety ambassadors.
- $570,000 in homelessness outreach, including increasing pay for a housing navigator and hours for IMPD’s Homeless Unit.
- $2.04 million towards cleaning services, including hiring an additional supervisor and additional cleaning ambassadors for daily cleaning.
- $365,000 in administrative costs.
- $1.5 million in operations support to the low-barrier homeless shelter and planned housing hub.