Change in policy not likely as Downers Grove nonprofits seek relief from stormwater fee
Some church leaders hope the village will reconsider the new stormwater program's impact on nonprofits, but Downers Grove officials have encouraged them — and any property owner — to work with the village case-by-case to cut down on the fee.
DOWNERS GROVE — As property owners across Downers Grove start to pay into the new municipal stormwater utility, village leaders are not pursuing a change in policy that would relieve churches and other nonprofits from paying hundreds each month.
Instead, officials are encouraging the nonprofits — as well as any interested property owner — to work with the village on a case-by-case basis to reduce their monthly stormwater fee.
Still, some church leaders say they want to continue pushing the issue.
This year, the village introduced a monthly fee that would fund stormwater sewer projects. The new fee coincides with a decrease in the village's property tax burden — which was used in past years to pay for the stormwater projects.
But for nonprofits that own property and are exempt from property taxes, the fee is an entirely new burden.
Churches and nonprofits in the village are paying, on average, close to $2,000 a year into the fund, with some paying two or three times that. One church and school, Marquette Manor Baptist Church, owes more than $8,000 a year, according to village records.
The additional burden is significant for many of the nonprofits that already operate on tight budgets, nonprofits leaders said
Last month, a group of church leaders approached the Downers Grove Village Council and asked if any exception could be made. While they were willing to pay their fair share, the pastors said the fee could interfere with the public services their churches provide.
After the council meeting, Commissioner Geoff Neustadt proposed a sit-down with all the pastors and village officials about the stormwater fee. But the day before the meeting, Neustadt, citing a family appointment, backed out of the meeting, according to an email exchange.
To reschedule, Neustadt recommended the church leaders meet one-on-one with the village to discuss the ways — already within the village code — to cut down on the stormwater fee.
The stormwater fee is calculated based on the amount of impervious area, such as a roof or driveway, on a given parcel. Property owners can reduce their monthly fee through credits and incentives. Installing a rain barrel, for instance, reduces stormwater runoff and yields a $25 one-time credit.
The option to sit down with the village is available to any property owner, Village Manager David Fieldman said.
"Any property owner — resident, nonprofit group, business, anybody at all — is welcome and encouraged to set up a meeting with our stormwater administrator," he said in a phone interview last week. "At those meetings, we'll sit down and talk about the stormwater utility and all the options available."
The email exchange between the pastors and Neustadt was courteous, but the Rev. Scott Oberle, pastor at First Congregational Church, said he was disappointed that there wouldn't be a chance for a group dialogue.
"We were more discouraged that the direction seemed to encourage us to meet individually as faith communities rather than have a dialogue together with the city as we feel that we all share some common concerns and mutual questions," Oberle wrote in the exchange.
Neustadt wrote that he is not currently in favor of changing the village's policy in regards to nonprofits.
Whatever the outcome, Oberle replied, he hopes the conversation will continue.
"I do wish to be clear, that we also do hope over time council will reconsider this fee as levied on non for profits, houses of worship and schools," Oberle wrote.
If you have any technical difficulties, either with your username and password or with the payment options, please contact us by e-mail at email@example.com