WBEZ | Interfaith Coalition to Restore the Water Fee Exemption For Religious Institutions http://www.wbez.org/tags/interfaith-coalition-restore-water-fee-exemption-religious-institutions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Churches take ‘leap of faith’ on Emanuel water deal http://www.wbez.org/news/churches-take-%E2%80%98leap-faith%E2%80%99-emanuel-water-deal-107089 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/burke.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Church leaders took a &ldquo;leap of faith&rdquo; Wednesday and got behind Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s compromise plan to charge non-profits for city water, after some last-second lobbying that ended with unanimous City Council approval.</p><p dir="ltr">The city will now charge non-profits based on a sliding scale, determined by their net assets. Groups and churches with less than $1 million in net assets will still get free water, while groups that are worth more than $250 million would pay full price.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel, aldermen and religious leaders whispered near the City Council bathrooms moments before the roll call vote - a rare scene for a legislative process where most votes are decided long before they hit the council floor.</p><p dir="ltr">A coalition of religious groups had objected to the plan, arguing that some old churches wouldn&rsquo;t get a break because they&rsquo;re situated on valuable land. Chicago&rsquo;s Catholic leaders were also worried that their 200 churches and 90 schools wouldn&rsquo;t qualify for any individual exemptions because they are all technically owned by one entity, the Archdiocese of Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">Coalition leaders claim they had the City Council votes to block the mayor&rsquo;s plan, but withdrew their opposition after gaining assurances that administrative rules would later be written in their favor.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In exchange for that commitment, we have - we have said we will support the passage of the ordinance today, and we will work it out,&rdquo; said Chancellor Jim Lago, with the Archdiocese of Chicago. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a leap of faith, and we&rsquo;re looking for the goodwill of those who will be in the room with us, and we expect that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Lago would not say whether he trusted Emanuel to make sure nonprofits don&rsquo;t take a big hit when the rules for collecting water fees are written, but he said negotiations would continue in the coming weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">The mayor took heat from Chicago&rsquo;s non-profit community when he first proposed taking away free water as part of his plan to balance the city budget in 2011. He <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-backtracks-hiking-water-costs-nonprofits-106884">backed off</a> a bit with his compromise proposal last month, but church leaders were concerned about how the city would calculate net assets.</p><p dir="ltr">After Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council vote, Emanuel maintained he struck a fair balance.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve done it in a thoughtful way, reflective of every one of the non-for profits&rsquo; and religious entities&rsquo; different roles in the community - meaning, their net value - but nonetheless ended the practice where the taxpayers were on the hook for everybody else,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">During his campaign, Emanuel vowed to stop giving away city water and sewer service to nonprofits - a freebie he estimates costs the city $20 million a year.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 18:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/churches-take-%E2%80%98leap-faith%E2%80%99-emanuel-water-deal-107089