"There has been a lot of talk in the public about it and I felt it was important to meet to discuss concerns and try to figure out possible solutions," Bradshaw said at the opening of the Common Council of the City of Brazil meeting. "Truth is, I'm not even really sure this is the right time for annexation, which is another reason I called the meeting."
Area business owners, who would be included in the annexation, composed the bulk of those in attendance, and they openly voiced their concerns.
"I've been looking at the tax rates and being annexed into the city would be about a 38-percent increase in taxes," PDF, Inc. Owner Ken Maurer said. "This is a considerable increase, and it may cause some to go out of business."
Maurer, along with others in attendance, said they understood and are OK with the city wanting to grow and expand, but felt there may be a better way to handle the situation.
"Maybe the matter can be delayed until the economy improves, or the increased taxes could be phased in over the next 8-10 years," Maurer suggested.
Umbaugh and Associates, Indianapolis, CPA Manager Deen Rogers said the law does allow a phase-in of the additional property taxes, but only during a three-year period.
"The law lets the city abate taxes for 25 percent of the additional amount year one, 50 percent in year two and 75 percent in the third year," Rogers said.
A few of those in attendance disputed the validity of Rogers' statement because when businesses are granted tax abatements on new equipment or additional real estate, the term may be as long as 10 years.
"State code dictates how taxes are abated during annexation," Rogers responded. "Those on new infrastructure are based on tax abatement laws, and the city has already stated they would honor current abatements that have been approved."
Rogers added he would speak with his company's attorney to see if there are other options available, possibly for a longer term of phasing in additional taxes.
One of the other sticking points for business owners in attendance was the current infrastructure -- water, sewer, etc. -- that they are currently utilizing and had to install themselves.
"There are no hydrants in our area and until services are expanded, we will still have to pay high insurance rates," Maurer said.
Brazil City Fire Department Chief Jim Smith said by being in the city, businesses would fall under the city's Class 5 ISO rating, and the savings they would have over having fire protection from a volunteer fire department -- most of which have a Class 8 or 9 rating -- may offset the added taxes.
"The difference between a Class 5 and Class 8 or 9 rated department is a savings in insurance premiums of about 75-80 percent," Smith said.
City Engineer Brian Pohlar added, "With the new water system improvement projects, we have money budgeted for capital improvements to make some upgrades. It won't happen overnight, but there is funding available."
The amount of improvements the city has the capability of completing also played a role in why the city chose the selected areas for annexation.
"When we were first looking at annexation, I was asked to almost literally square off the city," City Planning Administrator Stacy Gibbens said. "After we did that, we looked at what we could financially do as far as utility additions, cut out some areas and came up with the proposal we have right now."
Timberland Lumber Company President Sam Emmert did not find solace in the explanation and felt the annexation was directed toward businesses only.
"I believe the city should expand and grow, but I feel this has been very selective, because there are other areas where services already exist as well," Emmert said. "As businesses, we are already paying double the taxes compared to residential areas, and we don't have the benefit of deductions. We don't have enough revenue to pay the taxes we do now."
Pohlar attempted to explain part of the reason why some residential areas with services were excluded was due to the damage to those utilities that the city could not afford to make repairs at this time.
"I'm sure at some point, they will be annexed in as well," he said. "They put in the utilities themselves and the city has some funds for improvements, but not enough to complete what would be needed to improve utility services in those areas."
Bradshaw added the city is taking everything into consideration, and reiterated the possibility of annexation may not necessarily happen.
Maurer claimed that by forcing an annexation on local business owners, it would eventually eliminate the entrepreneurial spirit.
"The area has a unique situation with entrepreneurs here," he said. "If you create a bad taste in the mouths of those currently here, they will spread the word and it will deter others from bringing businesses to the city."
Viewing this statement as a threat, council member Steve Lamb responded, "We are trying to do now what other administrations refused to do because of this conflict. If changes had been made along the way, the city wouldn't be in the predicament it is in, but we can't go beyond the law to do what needs to be done."
United Machine and Design, Inc. President Tim Callahan said himself and other business owners recognize the process is not going to be easy, but the best way to complete annexation needs to be found.
"Additional taxes will hurt, but that added expense could end up on the customers or make us have to make a staffing decision and none of us want to lay anyone off," he said. "What needs to be done is to find the easiest and most economic way to do it."