Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hearing On SID Budget Tonight

The Special Improvement District’s third budget is up for a public hearing at tonight’s City Council meeting.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Half of the budget comes from a special tax assessed on commercial and industrial property within the district, which includes both downtown and South Avenue business zones. The other half comes from the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone funds, which come from taxes on retail sales within the UEZ.

The proposed budget for 2006-07 includes $125,607 from the UEZ and $129,607 from the SID, the extra $4,000 coming from sale of ads in its quarterly magazine. Since last year, the City Council approved an expansion of the SID, which will bring in more revenue than last year.

SID consultant David Biagini said the main thrust of the budget is improving cleanliness and safety in the business districts. The program also includes support of cultural activities and entertainment to draw shoppers, as well as sidewalk sales and other promotions.

This year, the budget provides $42,250 for 102 dusk-to-dawn floodlights and a new 30-hour weekly assistant position to help manage the district. Other expenses include print ads, television commercials, and a quarterly magazine that is mailed to every resident.

The SID encountered some opposition last summer from the late City Council President Ray Blanco, who questioned aspects of its management. Among his concerns, Blanco said the SID should have an on-site manager, not one who lives out of state, as Biagini does.

Biagini said the SID never received its UEZ funding for the second year, a loss that cannot be recouped because those funds do not roll over. Some of last year’s proposed activities had to be curtailed for lack of funds.

But this year, the SID expects to repeat its popular horse-and-wagon rides during the winter holiday season. The graffiti removal program will be expanded and holiday pole ornaments will be added in the expanded parts of the SID.

--Bernice Paglia


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