“I’m just really concerned about the door that’s being opened for the tax-exempt status of nonprofits,” Ihrig said. “I would caution the council to think of the precedent there.”
Pam Determan, executive director of VINE, said the 1,420 linear feet of frontage for the Nichols building, which the organization recently acquired, will cost about $80 per month, or $960 per year.
“Quite frankly, to a nonprofit, that’s not small potatoes,” she said.
Amy Jo Lennartson, the regional coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said there are about 95 Mankato area nonprofits that are members of the council. She said several she spoke to were concerned about a slippery slope.
“I think the concern is what will be the next fee,” she said.
Several council members, including Considine, Karen Foreman and Mike Laven, who voted in favor of the fee structure, said their decision had nothing to do with their view of nonprofits.
“The council does appreciate everything that you do,” said Councilwoman Tamra Rovney, who added that there isn’t another viable way to fund street lights because the cost would raise the levy above the max of 2.63 percent. “I do not believe the passing of this ordinance lessens the value of what you do.”
Mayor Eric Anderson, who voted against the street light fee, said Mankato is like a lot of municipalities struggling with how to fund every service they have to fund with ever-tightening budgets and increasing costs. He said difficult decisions often have to be made.
The fee will generate about $500,000 that will be used specifically for street light costs and maintenance.
While the removal of the street light costs from the general fund will provide some property tax relief, the fee cancels that out, Laven said.
As of 2010, 28 Minnesota cities (or 3 percent) had a street light utility fee.