Compromise on ending free Chicago water for all nonprofts is a fair deal
By Ald. Carrie Austin and Ald. Howard Brookins May 8, 2013 10:18AM
Cardinal Francis George speaks at a press conference by the Interfaith Coalition to Restore the Water Fee Exemption at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ, 4526 S. Wabash St.on April 30, | Brian Jackson~Sun Times
There has been a lot of discussion about water recently in Chicago. The question specifically is whether nonprofit institutions, especially our churches that provide such a critical service in our city, should have to pay for their water.
In conjunction with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, we are proud to support a compromise on the water exemption fee, which we believe is the best solution for everyone involved. This proposal came about after numerous discussions with the city, the aldermen, nonprofit institutions, faith leaders and community groups. Throughout the process of revising the plan, the mayor has been receptive and attentive to our requests and responsive to the interests of our constituents and nonprofit institutions. This compromise helps everyone.
Chicago’s location on the shore of Lake Michigan gives it access to water, which is a great blessing. But there are substantial costs associated with maintaining the infrastructure that purifies and delivers this water across our the city are significant. We know that nonprofits must be constantly mindful of their budgets, but so must Chicago residents and homeowners, who continue to pay their fair share. everyone is making sacrifices.
Religious groups and other nonprofits provide essential services to our city, and it is with this in mind that we believe the compromise we have reached is a reasonable solution. Not-for-profits with net assets of less than $1 million will be eligible to receive city water at no cost. Nonprofit organizations with net assets between $1 million and $10 million will be eligible for a 60 percent exemption from their water payments, while those with net assets between $10 million and $250 million will be eligible for a 25 percent exemption from their water payments. Not-for-profits with net assets exceeding $250 million will pay the full cost of their water bills. The agreement is retroactive to the start of this year, and will require each organization to provide a water conservation plan as well. This is a fair deal.
Sometimes the decisions we have to make are difficult, even when everyone is trying to accomplish the same goal. We all want what is best for Chicago and its residents, and in this case, we have achieved that by working together. Our proposal honors the contributions of the city’s nonprofits while also establishing a system that is fair to taxpayers and residents more reasonable given our current budget challenges.
Carrie Austin is alderman of Chicago’s 34th Ward. Ald. Howard Brookins is alderman of the 21st Ward.