According to our favorite source, Wikipedia, the two largest employers in Muncie are IU Clarian/BMH Hospital and Ball State University.
Due to the end of the industrial age, and the massive departure of our manufacturing base, our community is now concentrated in two industries: healthcare and education. Both industries have been fortunate to see solid growth over the past decade – that’s the good news!
The bad news is both are tax exempt and do not contribute toward the costs of operating our local government.
Well, according to the City of Muncie controllers office, both of these large employers do contribute toward “fire safety”:
- Ball State University pays $100,000, and
- IU Clarian Health/BMH pays $50,000.
The two largest organizations in Muncie pay a combined $150,000 toward government services. According to last years budget discussions, this pays for the total cost of two firemen including salaries, insurance, and benefits.
To put it into perspective, Dr. Jo Ann Gora, the President of Ball State University makes an annual salary of $420,000 while living in the City of Muncie.
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital boasts ownership of 1.2 million square feet of facilities within the City of Muncie.
Despite these staggering numbers, the two combined organizations contribute only $150,000 toward the cost of local government.
Local homeowners and small businesses are stressed to the limits while many property owners simply walk away from their property. Large employers coming into the community in recent years have all been given tax credits, subsidies, and abatements.
Compounding the problem, Ball State University, operates restaurants, recreational services, fitness facilities, printing services, housing, and entertainment which compete directly against local businesses that do pay taxes.
How can local businesses compete against an entity that is providing the same services, but has the luxury of receiving tax subsidies from the very people who are competing against them for customers?
As we’ve indicated in several articles about the fitness centers operated by the YMCA, it’s time for our local officials to put together a task force to look into Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) and other fees for local non-profits in our community.
It’s also time for our State congressman and senators to offer public policy support. Instead of our policymakers pushing through ALEC designed, and corporate funded, union and pension busting strategies, our legislators should be working with mayors and city executives in formulating policies to streamline taxation of local non-profits, especially those operating businesses which compete with local taxpaying businesses.
The City of Boston has become the experts in this movement, and are educating municipal leaders all across the United States. According the Lincoln Institute, there are currently hundreds of municipalities assessing PILOTs.
Suffering from the same issues as Muncie, the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, recently created a task force to investigate a payments in lieu of taxes program. Madison, like Boston, relies heavily on property tax to cover its budget and exempts a lot of government, hospital, university and nonprofit from tax payments.
It should no longer be a matter of if, but a matter of when.
It’s time for every organization to step forward and help with covering existing programs and provide our community with funds for programs that will enhance the entire community – not just their acres or square feet.