Greenwood won’t charge a fee to nonprofit organizations and churches that locate in certain parts of the city — for now.
City council members unanimously turned down a proposal that would have charged churches and other nonprofits that locate or expand within tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts a fee to help fund government. The proposal had drawn criticism, especially from local churches. More than 40 ministers and members from local churches came to the meeting this week and responded with a round of applause to the 0-9 vote that defeated the proposal.
Then, Berean Baptist Church Pastor Bill Blakely asked council members an important question: Could this proposal resurface?
The answer: Yes.
The proposal the city has been considering would have required nonprofit organizations and churches that move into or expand in one of the city’s TIF districts to pay a fee equal to what the city would have collected in property taxes if they weren’t tax-exempt. Supporters said the fee was needed to discourage nonprofits from moving into the city’s TIF districts, which set aside property tax dollars for infrastructure and economic development projects.
The unanimous defeat of the proposed fee came after Mayor Mark Myers asked council members to remove the item from their agenda because he said it was creating too much controversy.
But Myers isn’t done with the idea. He plans to talk to other communities, such as Noblesville, which charge the fee. Myers wants to find out how the fee was approved and supported in those communities.
Myers has said the city needs to collect the fee to protect its investment in TIF districts, which are centered around the municipal airport, downtown, Fry Road, east of Interstate 65 and the east side of the city.
Point Church Pastor Steve Rhoades, who has been one of the most vocal opponents to the proposal, has said the fee would be a burden on churches and that requiring them to pay it could force them to close or hurt their operations.
“With this proposal, the city would be creating religion-free zones within its TIF areas,” Rhoades said at Monday’s meeting.
Council member Bruce Armstrong said that if the fee does come back, it would need to go through more approvals, and he won’t vote for it.
“If this fee were to come back, the entire process would have to start over again,” Armstrong said.
“And if it does, I will have no support in it. I didn’t support it this time, and I see no reason whatsoever to change my mind.”