Lebanon's FAILED "Vision"

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A community controversy exists in Lebanon between the Greater Lebanon Community Vision Committee (http://www.lebanoncvc.org/CVC/Welcome.html) and citizens who favor orderly growth that pays for itself. Lebanon is primarily a bedroom community where most citizens want an affordable place to live that supports orderly municipal growth without extravagant tax subsidies and utility rate increases that support developers (such as the 12.4% increase in Lebanon’s 2012 property tax rate and the 18.6% increase in the residential customer electric rate sought by the Lebanon City Council in 2012).

The stated purpose of the developer-dominated GLCVC "is to mobilize the community to successfully make Lebanon a ‘destination community’ for the benefit of all of Boone County." The 2010 Lebanon Schools Referendum supporters website defined what the GLCVC means by "destination community" with the statement that "We need to be able to attract the RIGHT new residents to our community, young professionals and families who will pay to purchase homes and support our community." There is a controversial implication that many existing older and lower-income Lebanon citizens are WRONG for the community. One wonders if the ever-increasing taxes and utility rates are meant to serve a dual purpose by not only supporting the dreams and schemes of the GLCVC to attract the RIGHT new residents but also by forcing out the WRONG old residents.

GLCVC supporters generally fall into two categories: (1) developers and related contractors who benefit from disorderly attempts at rapid development and (2) local citizens such as bankers, newspaper publishers, radio station owners, investment advisors, lawyers, hospital administrators, auto dealers, realtors, insurance agents, print shop owners, mortuary owners, and restaurant owners who believe that one more customer justifies any action no matter how detrimental to others. Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis states on the City of Lebanon website that "by partnering with the ... (Greater Lebanon) Community Vision Committee (GLCVC), I will strive to make Lebanon a destination community." 

Some of the negative impacts resulting from the "vision" missteps by the developer-dominated GLCVC and their supporters are listed next.

1. Lebanon Public Library

Lebanon’s "vision" FAILURE began on February 26, 2003, when the Lebanon Library Board voted 6 to 1 to renovate the existing Library and construct a 3-story, 29,000 square foot addition at a cost not to exceed $8 million. Details about the over-built Lebanon Public Library can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_public_library.htm.

2. Lebanon Municipal Building

Lebanon’s "vision" FAILURE continued on August 25, 2003, when the Lebanon City Council (following the Mayor's lead) voted unanimously in favor of a $6.5 million bond issue for a new municipal building project. Details about the over-built Lebanon Municipal Building can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/municipal_building.htm.

3. Family Meals Tax

On September 29, 2005, the Lebanon City Council imposed a new 1% sales tax effective November 1, 2005, on food and beverages sold in Lebanon restaurants. The total sales tax on family meals in Lebanon is now a whopping 9%. Details about the extremely regressive Family Meals Tax can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/family_meals_tax.htm.

4. Lebanon I-65 Corridor Annexation

On September 8, 2008, the Lebanon City Council approved the forced annexation of 3,675 acres in an area roughly half a mile on either side of Interstate 65 from the southern city limits to just north of Indiana 267. Watchdog Indiana opposed the I-65 Corridor Annexation because (1) the tax and utility payments of existing residents would increase significantly, (2) sufficient pertinent information has not been obtained and communicated to the public (3) Fishers-like residential and retail sprawl would be created, (4) tax abatements would be given to yet more providers of low-pay and low-benefit jobs, (5) the political motivations are not compelling, and (6) the perceived economic benefits do not justify the tax, utility, and lifestyle costs. The first significant tax increase from the FAILED I-65 Corridor Annexation came when the Indiana Department of Local Government responded to a request from the Lebanon City Council and approved a $447,383 Lebanon Excess Property Tax Levy for each or the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 years. The electric infrastructure within the annexation area was purchased by Lebanon Utilities from Boone REMC for $1,357,402 on October 19, 2010, and additional electric utility expenditures by Lebanon Utilities within the annexation area have totaled about one million dollars. Details about Lebanon's I-65 corridor annexation can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/I-65_corridor_annexation.htm.

5. 2010 Lebanon Community Schools Referendum

GLCVC members helped lavishly fund a "political campaign" in support of a $40 million capital projects Lebanon Schools Referendum that narrowly passed in 2010 by a 2,784 to 2,749 vote. Among the reasons identified to oppose the Referendum was the fact that realistic student enrollment projections did NOT justify the $10.4 million expense of building eight new classrooms so Lebanon High School can accommodate 47% more students. The GLCVC believes a build-it-and-they-will-come high school with all the "bells and whistles" will attract high-income families to Lebanon's FAILED I-65 Corridor Annexation. The GLCVC refuses to recognize that no extravagant high school spending will change the reality that high-income families are NOT likely to choose the moderate-performing Lebanon schools with their high percentage of students with free and reduced price lunches over the high-performing Zionsville schools that have few students with free and reduced price lunches. Details about the 2010 Lebanon Community Schools Referendum can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/the_whole_truth.htm.

6. Lebanon High School "Conference Center"

Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis led the way in getting his Lebanon Redevelopment Commission to grant $500,000 to the Lebanon Community School Corporation to have the Herman B Wells Community Conference Center included with the recent $28 million Lebanon High School renovation. In addition to the $500,000 RDC grant, $824,790 was spent on the Conference Center from the bond issue that was approved by the 2010 Lebanon Community Schools Referendum; this bond issue will be paid for with property taxes through 2023 (the LHS Conference Center and adjoining Athletic Area building addition were not included in the original list of projects designated to receive bond proceeds). The Conference Center is a “vanity” project that increases the LHS utility expenses and meets no public policy need: see http://www.finplaneducation.net/wells_conference_center.htm. The RDC could have combined the $500,000 it spent on the Conference Center with the $1.71 million it has spent spent thus far to install “decorative panels” on the SR 39 bridge over I-65 and reduced by half the 15-year property tax increase for the new Memorial Park swimming pool.

7. New Lebanon Fire Station

Using bonds issued by the Lebanon Redevelopment Committee, a new fire station was built in 2011 for $2,634,579.67 (including land acquisition) at 975 Lasley Drive with the build-it-and-they-will-come hope that development would be triggered in the nearby FAILED I-65 Corridor Annexation. The old fire station at 201 East main Street, which was centrally located near a high concentration of existing residents, was left without any equipment to fight nearby fires in the middle of the city.

8. Indiana 39 Bridge Decorative Panels

There is an absurd notion that agricultural-themed translucent panels installed on the new Indiana 39 bridge over I-65 these will help "attract high-quality businesses and new residents to our city." Lebanon's Redevelopment Commission has now allocated $1,710,000 to the Lebanon SR 39 Bridge gateway project without the lighting package: see http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_sr39bridge_gateway.htm. Even if the City of Lebanon can successfully add the lighting package for less than $300,000, the total cost of the project will be almost $2,000,000.

9. Lebanon Indianapolis Avenue "Gateway" Project

The City of Lebanon is proceeding with a "federal-aid project to improve Indianapolis Avenue and create a gateway into the community." The Lebanon Gateway Project is a "let’s try something" first-impression improvement gamble that takes money away from other higher-priority Lebanon infrastructure needs. The $11.7 million total project cost ($8,192,740 from federal gasoline tax dollars and $3,469,053 from local funds) is more than the $11.1 million it costs the state to build a new I-69 mile from Evansville. The total costs from local funds for the entire Lebanon Gateway Project would be more than twice as much as what Lebanon normally spends in a year on all its transportation budget. In addition, there would be greater than normal annual expenses to maintain the appearance of the "gateway" median and rain gardens. It is silly to assert that "beautifying" one of the six major entrances to the city would be the first impression "tipping point" that results in sudden municipal growth. Details about Lebanon's Indianapolis Avenue Gateway Project can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_indyave_gateway.htm

10. Lebanon Utilities Electric Rate Increase 

Because the Lebanon City Council "rubber stamped" the Lebanon Utilities electric rate increase petition on February 27,2012, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) issued an order on September 12, 2012, approving a settlement agreement between the City of Lebanon Utilities and the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC). The settlement agreement allowed Lebanon Utilities to increase its annual operating revenues from rates and charges for service by $2,385,273 or 13.40%. It is likely that the final average electric rate increase for residential customers will be more than 13.40% (probably about 14.44%) while the final average electric rate increase for non-residential customers will be less than 13.40%.

The settlement agreement also authorized Lebanon Utilities to issue electric utility revenue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $13 million. The costs of the $13 million bond issue account for 48% of the annual operating revenues increase resulting from the electric rate increase: $948,909 for the principal and interest payments debt service and $190,357 for the debt service reserve requirement. At least 40%, and maybe as much as 55%, of the $10,207,000 total estimated construction costs included in the bond issue is for speculative build-it-and-they-will-come electric infrastructure capital projects within Lebanon’s I-65 corridor annexation.

Details about the Lebanon Utilities 2012 electric rate increase can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_utilities_electric.htm.

11. Lebanon Memorial Park Swimming Pool

The Lebanon City Council (Keith Campbell, John Copeland, Lana Kruse, Mike Kincaid, Jeremy Lamar, Steve Large, Preston Myers) imposed property tax increases to pay for two $2 million bond issues to build the $4.52 million new Memorial Park pool (the $520,000 not covered by bonds comes from a Lebanon Redevelopment Commission grant). Concerned taxpayers who believed the city should use its ample resources to build any new pool without a tax increase intended to initiate the petition and remonstrance process to defeat the pool project. Even though it is prohibited by Indiana Code 6-1.1-20-3.1(c), Lebanon avoided the petition and remonstrance process by artificially dividing the $4.52 million new pool project into three capital projects each of which do not exceed the $2 million petition and remonstrance trigger. As noted online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_park_pool.htm, the City of Lebanon had ample funds available to build a new pool without a tax increase. 

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This page was last updated on 01/27/15 .