March 14, 2012
(UPDATED) Chicago Churches Drained By Water Meter Requirement
Churches face unexpected expenses as strapped city seeks more revenue.
Update: Chicago-area churches are threatening to cancel free public programs—and that has city mayer Rahm Emmanuel listening. After nearly a year of butting heads with religious leaders over a program that removed a water-use fee exemption for religious institutions, the mayor will "take into account a recent letter to the city's 50 aldermen cautioning that the ... program poses a dire threat to churches and the social programs they offer in their communities."
Chicago churches losing their free city water are facing another unanticipated expense: installing meters to measure their water usage.
Until last year, Chicago nonprofits were allowed to have free water access at their facilities. But in order to save the city money (up to an estimated $15.2 million), Chicago’s 2012 budget began the gradual elimination of that perk. Nonprofits get a 60 percent discount this year, which will reduce by 20 percent each year until it hits zero in 2015.
But hundreds of churches do not have the usage meters needed, and the cost to install them can run up to several thousand dollars, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Though city officials have reached out to churches and other nonprofits to aid with the transition, 150 churches have not responded. As a result, the city is threatening to reclassify those churches as “commercial accounts,” taking away their charitable designations, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Water Management told the Sun-Times.
Last February, CT reported on other ways that churches are increasingly being considered new revenue sources in order to bolster struggling city budgets.