DDA leaderless but determined
Downtown business owners are pushing themselves to the limit.In December, the executive director for the Downtown Development Authority resigned, leaving the group without an organizational leader. The DDA is determined even more without a leader, so members of the DDA are working overtime, said Suzanne Stewart, vice chair of the downtown retail and restaurant committee, a branch of the DDA.”We’re going out there and we’re getting stuff done,” said Stewart. “But it would be a lot easier if we had someone directing us.”Since the DDA formed in 2002, the city of Glenwood paid $80,000 a year for an executive director. The executive director is the DDA’s only paid, full-time position.From January 2004 through June, sales tax has declined by 4.5 percent, affecting the city’s budget. Due to budget cuts and a decline in city sales tax revenue, the city decided not to fund a director for 2004, which puts more demands on DDA members and volunteers.”The volunteers are single store owners,” said Robin Haney, DDA member and owner of Robin’s Hallmark on Grand Avenue. “They come in early, work all day and then they’re tired.”Haney gets to her store early in the morning and leaves late in the evening. By the end of the week, Haney’s worked well over 40 hours. As a full-time employee, an executive director has more time to focus on the DDA than business owners do, Haney said.”We don’t want to burn out the volunteers,” said Bob Zanella, volunteer for the DDA. “These people run their business, spend all day making their livelihood, which is their first priority, and then volunteer; that’s a lot.”The DDA has other ways to generate income, said Mike Harman, city finance director.• Sales Tax RevenueIf sales tax revenue increases after the base year – which is March 1, 2001, to Feb. 28, 2002 – the DDA receives 50 percent of the increased revenue, said Harman. This hasn’t happened yet because sales tax revenue has not increased since the base year, Harman said.• Property TaxThe DDA receives money from property tax increases within the DDA district. Although property taxes increased since the base year, the DDA hasn’t received any money, Harman said. The money is tied up in a tax increment financing lawsuit filed in 2002 involving the city, county, Colorado Mountain College and the DDA.Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a system of generating money to pay for projects by using a portion of sales tax revenues and the rise in property tax revenues. Garfield County and Colorado Mountain College filed a lawsuit against the DDA and the city of Glenwood for use of TIF funds, Zanella said.The case is awaiting jurisdiction in appeals court, Zanella said.With its budget severely cut – the 2003 budget was $160,000 and the 2004 budget is $45,000 – DDA members are brainstorming ways to get funding.”There are no funds to spare,” Haney said. “We have to practice different choices to make this work.”To offset budget cuts, decreased sales tax revenue and unavailable money, the DDA is discussing a mill levy for the November election.Although the ballot issue is still being discussed, the DDA is looking at a five mill levy, which would bring about $150,000 to the DDA, Zanella said.A five mill levy means that a property owner pays $.0005 for every $100,000 of their property’s value. A homeowner with a $250,000 home would pay an extra $125 in property tax each year.The mill levy would affect only property owners in the DDA district.Harman doesn’t know how many property owners would be affected by the levy.”Declining sales tax has had a tremendous impact on us,” Haney said. “There’s no way to just pull money out of a hat.”Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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