Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SID Budget Foregoes UEZ Funds

Directors of the city’s Special Improvement District have given the City Council a new budget that foregoes the past match in Urban Enterprise Zone funds.

Over the past three years, the city was supposed to match a special surtax on district property owners with sales tax funds collected in the Urban Enterprise Zone and held by the state. With state approval, the city could apply the funds to projects in the zone. But of $350,000 allocated as matching funds, only about $130,000 was realized, the SID Management Corporation said in a budget narrative.

“Consequently, the SIDMC was forced to modify budget line items, eliminate or delay programs, and generally operate without the security of a reliable budget,” the report said.

The budget for the 2008 fiscal year omits the UEZ funding for one year and adds in SID tax funds that were received too late in the third fiscal year to be used.

The council may approve the budget Wednesday at its regular meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. If the council approves it, a public hearing on the budget will be held at the council’s March 5 meeting in the same location. The budget covers staff, office costs, promotional activities, a quarterly magazine and graffiti removal

Council members expressed support for the group as well as hopes that some UEZ funding could be added. City Administrator Marc Dashield told the council the administration has been meeting with the SID board and wants to add some UEZ funds, but there is a need to get the budget passed.

“What happened is unfortunate,” Councilman Cory Storch said. “They will not be getting money until April.”

The 2008 fiscal year began July 1, 2007 and the SID board approved its budget in November. The fiscal year will end June 30.

The budget for the downtown and South Avenue business districts will be mostly based on a 2.72 percent tax on property owners there, expected to yield $138,500, and other revenue that will add up to $147,300. Another $80,287 in carryover funds will bring the total proposed fourth-year budget up to $227,587.

Storch suggested that the council form an oversight committee for the SID that could track funding and spending. Councilman Elliott Simmons, who has a business in the district, said he thought the group had received its funding until board member Jeffery Dunn said they had not.

The council approved the formation of the Special Improvement District, but the late Council President Ray Blanco harshly criticized the operation in 2006. Board members who attended Monday’s meeting appeared pleased at the supportive tone of the council and administration.
Click here to see a previous Plaintalker post on the SID.

--Bernice Paglia


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