June 18, 2018

City-County Council Rejects Mile Square Economic Improvement District

Residents for and against the proposal for new economic improvement districts attended the City-County Council meeting Monday night. - Drew Daudelin/WFYI

Residents for and against the proposal for new economic improvement districts attended the City-County Council meeting Monday night.

Drew Daudelin/WFYI

The City-County Council voted against a proposal for an economic improvement district in the downtown Mile Square.

The district would have created a property tax funded board to oversee more than $3 million of revenue and fund various improvement projects and maintenance. The proposed budget for the district would have funded efforts to address panhandling, cleanliness, and the homelessness problem downtown. 

Kim Ledger has lived in the Mile Square for eight years and supported the proposal.  She said she has seen a decline in cleanliness and increase in panhandling in her time living downtown.

"This is our neighborhood. This Mile Square is where we live, where we work, where we shop, where we meet with our friends, where we have guests come into town. It is our responsibility to take care of our neighborhood," says Ledger. 

City-County Council Republican Minority Leader Michael McQuillen voted against the proposal due to concerns about property-owner support for the proposal.

"I think between a potential tax increase and the question on how many people who actually live or have businesses in the area wanted to do this, that kinda came down to the deciding factors why a vast majority of the councilors voted no," says McQuillen. 

Although he voted against the proposal this time, he said he would vote in favor if the proposal came back with a few amendments and more support from property owners. 

A similar proposal for the Greater Virginia Avenue Corridor, which includes Fletcher Park and Fountain Square areas, passed.

Funding for new scholarship program

The council also moved forward on a proposal to use more than $500,000 on a new scholarship program for low-income residents.

The program, called Indy Achieves, would use grant money to help adults who never finished getting their degree and students on the verge of dropping out.

Democratic Councilor Blake Johnson says only 42 percent of Marion County residents hold some kind of post-secondary credential.

“This skills gap threatens our economic competitiveness. It restricts the growth of our tax base, and most importantly these low college attainment rates are a major barrier as our residents fight to achieve the American dream," Johnson says. "As we seek to effectively combat generational poverty and as we work to provide livable wages to our community.”

The proposal to partially fund the program passed with a vote of 21 to 3.

Study committee on social service disparities

The council also voted to create a study committee to review gaps and disparities in social service providers in Marion County.

The committee will attempt to address the city's social service needs by recommending policy changes and long-term funding options.

Republican Councilor Jeff Miller says jobs exist for many of the people who need them, but says too many barriers get in the way.

“Whether it’s they’re an ex-offender and can’t get a job, whether they need better transit, better education...these are the gaps you’re trying to fill. This is so huge,” Miller says.

The proposal passed unanimously.

WFYI's Drew Daudelin contributed to this report.

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