DID budget almost done


    Although it’s not a done deal yet, it looks like the Downtown Improvement District will be getting its first multi-year budget in its eight-year history. In past years, the board had to operate with a yearly spending plan.

    City commissioners declared last week that the DID needs a three-year special property- tax assessment that would fund the budgets for fiscal years 2010-2012, and they authorized City Assessor Glen Beekman to prepare the tax roll for the 2010 fiscal year, which began on July 1.

    The DID budget pays for the maintenance of downtown, which includes trash pickup and snow removal, and for the beautification program that is responsible for the seasonal decorations and flowers distributed throughout the district.

    The budget also covers the cost of operating the snowmelt systems on Monroe Center and the Louis Campau Promenade and promoting events downtown. Only property owners on the center and promenade are billed for the snowmelt systems. An assessment for the promenade system won’t be made until fiscal year 2011.

    “The services are tailored to benefit the properties in the district,” said Jay Fowler, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority and a DID staff member.

    Fowler told commissioners that all downtown property owners were notified of the budget change and none objected to moving to a multi-year property-tax assessment.

    City officials believe the assessment ensures the long-term viability of the district, improves the business climate, lowers normal operating expenses for business owners and enhances property values.

    The FY 2010 assessment is expected to total $735,000. Once the tax roll is prepared and a hearing is held for individual assessments, the total assessment and DID budget will come back to the City Commission for adoption.

    The city established the DID and the Downtown Alliance, which carries out the board’s programs, in 2001. Nine members sit on the DID board. Robert Herr, a consultant with the accounting firm Crowe Horwath, chairs the board.

    In a related matter, the DDA approved a funding request of $170,000 for the Downtown Alliance last week. The alliance will use the dollars to advertise, market and promote the district and the events being held downtown, which are beginning to draw national attention from cable networks like CNN.

    “We are getting attention from people like that,” said Sharon Evoy, executive director of the alliance.

    Evoy said the city’s reputation is changing from being a conservative town to a place where a lot of activities are going on. She gave credit to Rob Bliss, a 20-year-old who has organized a zombie walk, a sidewalk coloring day and a 4th of July water-balloon fight for downtown, for creating much of the excitement.

    “He really is aware of having these things downtown,” said Evoy.

    DID special assessments

    Here is what the Downtown Improvement District budgets will look like should city commissioners adopt a multi-year property-tax assessment.

    Area-wide net assessment
    Monroe Center snowmelt assessment
    Louis Campau snowmelt assessment
    Total DID assessment

    FY 2010

    FY 2011


    Source: City of Grand Rapids, July 2009

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