Pleasant Township residents won’t be voting on an income tax increase to fund a new rapid transit bus line when they head to the polls this fall.
Three Pleasant Township board members want more information about the mass transit system, known as the Red Line, before letting residents vote on an income tax increase that would fund a portion of the nearly $200 million project.
The rapid transit bus route would pass through Hamilton, Marion and Johnson counties, with dedicated lanes and a limited number of stops from Carmel to Greenwood. The proposed bus line will run through Greenwood, where it will make three stops. Each of those stops — at the Greenwood Park Mall, near Greenwood City Center and near Smith Valley Road and U.S. 31 — are located in Pleasant Township, where more than 57,000 people live.
In Indianapolis, the vote is citywide, but in other areas, townships along the route decide whether to add a referendum to the ballot where voters would consider a 0.25 percent income tax increase. Residents in Pleasant Township, which includes areas of Greenwood, Whiteland and New Whiteland, would pay the tax increase, which would be about $128 annually, or about $10 per month, for someone earning the median income of $51,344.
But Pleasant Township board members have decided to hold off on adding the referendum to the ballot for the fall election, instead waiting until 2018 — the next eligible countywide election.
Board members said they don’t have enough information on the project to put it to a public vote yet.
Pleasant Township Trustee Mary Ann Powell wants to know what costs would be covered with a tax increase and how much of the southside leg of the project would have to be funded by the township, Powell said.
“I don’t know whether I’m for or against it,” Powell said. “I don’t have enough information to answer that question. I would rather use the next two years to get all the information.”
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers and Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Christian Maslowski want the referendum added to the ballot this fall because of the amount of publicity the Red Line would receive through campaign ads by candidates who are for the transit system. The ads would bring more public awareness leading up to Election Day as residents head to the polls, they said.
Waiting for the next election in 2018 prolongs the project, they said. If residents aren’t voting on whether to enact such a tax until 2018, the project, which will include creating a dedicated lane as well as building new shelters at the designated bus stops, will also be delayed.
Two weeks ago, Clay Township, which encompasses Carmel and Westfield in Hamilton County, decided to hold off on adding the referendum to ballots this fall, opting to revisit the issue for the 2018 election.
“It certainly would have helped if Clay Township would have voted to put this on its ballots this fall. I don’t think it hurts us, but it certainly would have helped. It would have been beneficial to do this now, instead, the two most northern and southern counties are waiting to have this conversation again in 2018,” Maslowski said.
By keeping the referendum off the ballot, the board isn’t allowing residents to have a vote and decide for themselves right now, Myers said.
Myers and Maslowski wanted to get the process started sooner by allowing residents to vote this year, they said.
Plans for redeveloping downtown Greenwood are underway, and the Red Line is a catalyst in shaping the future of the community, Maslowski said. But he hopes the added time for discussion and conversation will put the referendum on ballots in 2018, Maslowski said. Representatives from IndyGo, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Indianapolis and Greenwood Chambers of Commerce can all answer any questions and discuss the proposed plans for the Red Line, Maslowski said.
Pleasant Township board members are aware of the Red Line’s role in the progress of Greenwood, and they’ll be happy to revisit the idea of adding the measure to ballots in two years, board member Jerry Napier said.
But the decision to put the referendum on the ballots for this fall would have to be decided by Aug. 1, and that doesn’t leave board members enough time to do their own information gathering, they said.
“If this is going to get done, we want it done right. The timeframe just isn’t that good. Nobody is trying to be negative about it, we just want to be realistic,” board member Tom Whitaker said. “We want time to put a study together where we have public hearings and show people how this is beneficial. This is a long-range decision.”
The board would like to explore options, such as hiring someone to carry out the research and information gathering process to aid in the decision making, Powell said.
Board members also want more time to decide on whether the referendum should be done and also figure out how the process of making that decision would work, Powell said.
Here is a look at a referendum that could be coming to ballots in Johnson County in the future:
Who votes: Pleasant Township residents
What: Residents would be voting on whether to enact a 0.25 percent income tax increase that would fund a portion of a rapid-transit bus route called the Red Line, which has an estimated total cost of about $200 million. On the average median income in Pleasant Township of $51,344, the increase would cost about $128 annually, or a little more than $10 per month.
When: Pleasant Township officials will not be putting the measure on the ballot this year, so the next eligible election is in 2018.