Lebanon Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan
Watchdog Indiana Home Page Watchdog Lebanon Home Page Aaron Smith Biography Elect Aaron (Watchdog) Smith Campaign Ad Letters
NOTE: The series of Wednesday campaign ad letters in The Lebanon Reporter at http://www.finplaneducation.net/campaign_ad_letters.htm introduce Lebanon City Council At-Large Candidate Aaron Smith and his following Lebanon Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan.
The strong Lebanon population growth from 1990 to 2007 has been stymied by the failure of the “Developer Friendly” agenda. Until 2008, Lebanon grew by appealing to young families wanting an affordable starter home in a safe bedroom community with a rural quality of life, moderate cost of living, and acceptable schools. We need to recover from the Developer Friendly agenda failure by implementing a smart growth plan that rediscovers the Taxpayer Friendly strategies from the recent past.
The indiscriminate awarding of tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies has resulted in the saturation of the local low wage job market. Our rural quality of life has been eroded by the increased traffic to bring out-of-city employees to the low wage jobs in the Lebanon Business Park. Future tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies should only be awarded to those companies that create a significant number of new jobs that pay a Get-Ahead Wage of at least $20 an hour together with an acceptable benefits package.
It is of utmost importance that concerted and coordinated efforts be made to develop the Lebanon workforce so all Lebanon students and adults are prepared to have fulfilling careers that pay a Get-Ahead Wage of at least $20 an hour. A Lebanon workforce that is more skilled because of continuing education after high school graduation will help attract companies that pay a Get-Ahead Wage to Lebanon and central Boone County.
Lebanon’s ever increasing municipal property tax rates are one reason that our local governments have reached the point where they are experiencing revenue shortfalls from the property tax caps. Lebanon homes assessed at more than $200,000 and Lebanon apartments are at the property tax cap level for the first time.
It is imperative that Lebanon effectively implement a Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan.
1. Objective. Lebanon must adopt a Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan that enriches the life of every resident because the current “Developer Friendly” agenda has failed.
2. Developer Friendly Agenda Failure. Since the 2007 municipal election, Lebanon’s elected and appointed officials uniformly imposed a Developer Friendly agenda that focused on costly build-it-and-they-will-come city projects, generous tax abatements, and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies for Lebanon Business Park companies. This Developer Friendly agenda was supposed to reduce everyone’s tax burden and grow the city by attracting young professional families. However, the explosive increase in Lebanon’s municipal property tax rate, dramatic slowdown in Lebanon’s population growth, and alarming increase in Lebanon’s school students receiving free and reduced price lunches show that the Developer Friendly agenda has failed.
2.A. Costly City Projects. Hard-earned tax dollars and Lebanon
Utilities bill payments fund the build-it-and-they-will-come city projects
(1) Lebanon High School renovation ($28 million from a $40 million bond referendum). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/the_whole_truth.htm.
(2) Lebanon High School “conference center” ($1.32 million). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/wells_conference_center.htm.
(3) New I-65 fire station ($2.63 million).
(4) SR 39 bridge “decorative panels” ($1.88 million). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_sr39bridge_gateway.htm.
(5) Indianapolis Avenue “gateway” roundabouts ($11.66 million total with $3.47 million local). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_indyave_gateway.htm.
(6) Electric infrastructure upgrades ($13 million bond issue). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_utilities_electric.htm.
(7) New Memorial Park swimming pool ($4.52 million). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_park_pool.htm.
(8) I-65 corridor master drainage plan ($28.8 million). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_drainage_plan.htm.
(9) Vincennes University advanced manufacturing training center ($8.5 million total with $7 million local). See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_vu_center.htm.
(10) Bicycle and pedestrian master plan ($8.95 million).
2.B. Generous Tax Abatements. Twelve Lebanon companies profit from 22 property tax abatements in 2015 that have a total value of $1.43 million. Lebanon’s 2015 property tax rate would have been lower if six companies located outside the Lebanon Tax Increment Financing District had not been awarded property tax abatements totaling $699,990. Because six companies located inside the Lebanon Tax Increment Financing District were awarded 2015 property tax abatements, $725,328 is not available for the Lebanon Redevelopment Commission to spend for the betterment of the city.
2.C. Tax Increment Financing Infrastructure Subsidies. Property taxes totaling $2.04 million were paid in 2014 to the Lebanon Redevelopment Commission by the 12 Lebanon Business Park companies located within the Lebanon Tax Increment Financing District. These property taxes were not available to meet local government needs (or reduce the Lebanon property tax rate) because they were captured by the Lebanon Redevelopment Commission to make the bond debt payments for infrastructure improvements that were provided free-of-charge to the 12 Lebanon Business Park companies.
2.D. Municipal Property Tax Rate Increase. For the 7 years since 2008, the portion of the property tax rate approved by the Lebanon mayor and city council dramatically increased 93.32 percent from $0.4594 to $0.8881 during a time when inflation only increased 9.89 percent. For the six years prior to 2008, the Lebanon city property tax rate decreased 37.65 percent from $0.7368 to $0.4594 while inflation increased 21.63 percent. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_tax_rates.htm.
2.E. Population Growth Slowdown. From 1990 through 2007, the Lebanon population increased from 12,059 to 15,518 – an increase of 3,459 for the 18 years, for an average annual increase of 192.17 per year. For the seven years after 2007 (through 2014), excluding the 162 population increase from the 2009 I-65 south annexation, Lebanon’s population increased 159 the past seven years for an average annual increase of 22.71 per year. The total Lebanon population only increased 1.02 percent the past seven years when the annexation population is not included. Lebanon’s 1.02 percent population growth the past seven years was significantly slower than the statewide 3.41 percent growth rate and the Boone County 13.52 percent growth rate. Lebanon’s average annual population growth of 22.71 the last 7 years was a small fraction of the city’s average annual growth of 192.17 the prior 18 years. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/population_data.htm.
2.F. More Lebanon School Free Lunches. The generous tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies were awarded without any consideration of whether the recipient companies pay a Get-Ahead Wage. The many low wage jobs in the Lebanon Business Park are partly responsible for the proportion of Lebanon school students who receive free or reduced price lunches having increased from 18 percent in 2000 to 41.4 percent today. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_tax_rates.htm.
3. Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan. A Taxpayer Friendly Smart Growth Plan must be effectively and efficiently implemented that preserves the rural quality of life in central Boone County, maintains a moderate cost of living by putting an end to Lebanon municipal property tax rate and utility rate increases, awards tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies to only those business that pay a Get-Ahead Wage, maximizes the available workforce development options, and encourages meaningful input from all Lebanon residents and stakeholders.
3.A. Rural Quality of Life Preserved.
(1) Oppose involuntary Lebanon annexation attempts by only supporting city annexations where every property owner agrees to be annexed.
(2) Make the Lebanon Comprehensive Plan consistent with the Boone County Comprehensive Plan where farm land adjacent to the city is preserved for the agricultural uses that protect our rural quality of life.
3.B. Moderate Cost of Living Maintained.
(1) Manage the Lebanon city budget so the Pay 2017 municipal property tax rate is no more than the Pay 2016 property tax rate.
(2) Identify and implement municipal service delivery efficiencies so municipal property tax rates after 2017 can be lowered.
(3) Work with other local units of government to convince them to limit revenue shortfalls from property tax caps by controlling their budget and property tax rate increases.
(4) Approve no Lebanon Utilities rate increases for build-it-and-they-will-come capital projects.
(5) Stop misallocating storm water management dollars to design the large build-it-and-they will-come detention ponds included in the I-65 Corridor Master Drainage Plan until development partners are identified that will pay sufficient infrastructure development fees to pay for all of the planned drainage improvement costs.
(6) Cancel Phase Two of the unneeded Indianapolis Avenue “gateway” roundabouts project to save up to $1.14 million in local spending. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_indyave_gateway.htm.
(7) Obtain requests for proposal on all service contracts to get the best services at the best price.
(8) Do not allow future city capital projects to be unlawfully and artificially divided into less costly projects to keep concerned Lebanon citizens from initiating the petition and remonstrance process to prevent unwanted property tax increases. How the Lebanon Mayor, Lebanon City Council, and Lebanon Department of Parks Board artificially divided the new Memorial Park swimming pool project to avoid the petition and remonstrance process is detailed online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_park_pool.htm.
(9) Oppose the imposition of an unneeded and regressive Boone County Wheel Tax.
(10) Thoroughly determine and discuss the pros and cons of the components of the bicycle and pedestrian master plan before making costly expenditures for infrastructure changes that many residents may find undesirable.
(11) Do not squander even one more tax dollar on the wasteful SR 39 “decorative” bridge panels. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_sr39bridge_gateway.htm.
(12) Use excess Lebanon Redevelopment Commission revenue to help homeowners correct their improper pump sump connections to prevent sewage treatment plant overloads and raw sewage backups during heavy rains. See http://www.finplaneducation.net/sewer_backup_prevention.htm.
3.C. Tax Abatements and Tax Increment Financing Infrastructure
Subsidies Properly Used.
(1) Award tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies to only those companies that create a significant number of new jobs that pay a Get-Ahead Wage of at least $20 an hour together with an acceptable benefits package.
(2) Do not award tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies to the owners of speculative buildings when it is not known it the eventual building occupants will create a significant number of new jobs that pay a Get-Ahead Wage.
(3) Do not award tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing infrastructure subsidies to the owners of apartment buildings.
3.D. Workforce Development Options Maximized.
(1) Help Lebanon students and adults use all the available Workforce Development Options to attain the skills needed to pursue fulfilling careers that pay a Get-Ahead Wage.
(2) Make certain the Lebanon Schools Career Counselor and Community Work Partnership Coordinator develops a joint curriculum with the Lebanon Vincennes University Education Center where interested Lebanon High School students can benefit from a dual credit/concurrent enrollment program
3.E. Meaningful Public Input Encouraged.
(1) Allow public comment at every Lebanon City Council meeting.
(2) Allow public comment at all Lebanon board and commission meetings.
(3) Post all meeting agendas online with links to pertinent documents.
(4) Post all meeting minutes online.
(5) Give all interested citizens the opportunity to apply to serve the public on a city board or commission.
(6) Avoid having the same person serve on multiple city boards and commissions (unless required to do so by Indiana Code).
(7) Avoid appointing city employees to serve on city boards and commissions.
(8) Make open to the public every meeting where the Lebanon Comprehensive Plan is revised.
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This page was last updated on 11/29/15 .