Four non-profit organizations requested a status of exemption from the Business Improvement District fee, which is nine cents per square foot of property plus $4.95 per linear foot of lot frontage. All four requests were denied by the BID board, citing a litany of factors.
Making the applications were St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Second Presbyterian Church, the Downtown YMCA and United Way.
Amy Donahue of the River City Company said the board's finance committee and full board felt that the four entities had not demonstrated "economic or financial hardship" from the levy.
She said they are eligible to reapply in a year.
“Part of the BID Ordinance allowed for exemptions to be applied for,” said board member Gordon Stalan. “Basically, for an organization to be exempt, they had to be a non-profit, the property had to be exempt from property taxes, and they had to show a significant financial hardship. We received that information from four organizations, and the finance board reviewed that.”
He said the finance board focused on whether or not these non-profits, which included churches, displayed financial hardship. He said, “We didn’t see it at all” with those non-profits. Mr. Stalan pointed to the precedent it would set if the board approved of exemptions in its first year of existence.
“We thought from a business standpoint, it would also be the right thing for us to do to not come out of the gate granting exemptions, because they can be assumed to happen every year,” said Mr. Stalan, “and the same four organizations could apply next year.”
Although the rest of the board agreed with him, one member objected to this rationale. Donald O’Connor focused on how those non-profits benefit the Chattanooga community.
“I think the good idea is to give them the exemption and I think these non-profit organizations, like churches, are a great asset to the community,” said Mr. O’Connor. “I just don’t consider them in the same way the same as the profit making businesses of the community. I opposed it and I still oppose not giving them the exemption.”
While the rest of the board seemed to understand where Mr. O’Conner was coming from, they did not change their stance on the issue. Mr. Stalan said, “All four do great work in the community, but we just didn’t see the case for hardship. We also felt like they would benefit from BID work.”