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Downtown reacts to new $250 fee on property owners to replace COVID-relief funds

Indianapolis to charge fee for Mile Square district

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis government is expected to raise $5.5 million from a new fee imposed on all property owners in the downtown Mile Square.

News 8’s Danielle Zulkosky reported Nov. 13 that public safety would take up $1.025 million; homeless outreach, $570,000; administrative costs, $365,000; and cleaning services, more than $2 million.

Property owners can’t opt out of the Mile Square Economic Enhancement District fee, which leads others to believe it’s really a tax.

Taylor Schaffer, the president and chief executive officer of Downtown Indy Inc., helped lead the effort to create the district. “What we want to insure with this is that property owners are seeing a direct impact of the services we are talking about and that really works well with areas with high density with high foot traffic.”

Downtown Indianapolis has residential density and, in certain parts of the Mile Square, the foot traffic.

The fee will be imposed on every property owner in the Mile Square. Residential property owners will pay $250 a year. Commercial and apartment building owners will be charged 0.1681% of their properties’ assessed value. The fee will appear on the 2025 property tax bills, but it is not permanent.

“It has a 10-year time frame and then the opportunity for renewal with both the approval of the City-County Council and the General Assembly,” Schaffer said. 

A committee of eight people is expected to be chosen by summer. Two board members will be appointed by the Indiana governor, one by the speaker of the Indiana House, one by the Indiana Senate pro tempore, two by the mayor, and two by the City-County Council. A majority of the board members are required to be property owners in the Mile Square area.

Steve Knight retired from Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in 2020. He worked in the downtown district for years and is skeptical of the new fee. “I don’t understand why they are targeting the Mile Square when, after the riots (in May and June 2020), businesses left and now they are going to penalize them. I don’t understand any of the rationale behind that.”

The city government has been paying dozens of people to keep the streets clear of trash. Their duties haven’t extend into picking up trash around dumpsters in the downtown area The city using American Rescue Plan money, federal relief funds for COVID relief, to pay for many of the services that the new fee is designed to pay for.

The new revenue stream will allow the city to continue and expand some of those services.

Greg Bires owns a business on Meridian Street just south of Monument Circle. His business was heavily damaged during the 2020 riots. He says business has not returned to normal after the riots and the coronavirus.

“Well, you know, this fee being downtown, right in the middle of all of all this, all of the building owners and business owners are still reeling from COVID, and most of the buildings are not even near capacity. They are still struggling for renters, and what are people thinking to levy a tax like this at a time like this when we are trying to get back on our feet?” Bires said.

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