Opinion: Letter to the Editor: BID Proposal Over-reaches

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: BID Proposal Over-reaches

As described in the full BID proposal, the total annual cost of running a limited area Business Improvement District (BID) in Old Town would be $2,090,000 and be run through a dedicated tax and nonprofit entity. But cost is only a part of this equation. King Street small businesses are the face of the city, and their financial management structures and needs are vastly different from the offices, hotels, and mixed use properties who are also part of the proposed tax mix.

Let’s look at the detailed breakdown and see if both a short term and long term win can be crafted for the small business owners in the BID. To do this two things are essential: a willingness to first, cut costs to the bone, and a phased implementation.

According to the BID proposal, the greatest costs are also the least immediately impactful, i.e. public relations, advertising, and marketing. They constitute $785,000 or 38 percent of expenditures. If you add non-essentials such as ambassadors (never explained in the proposal), additional signage and lights, park management (undefined), public art (undefined), and public space events management (already city staffed and funded) you get roughly $579,000 or 28 percent of the total ...

Taken together these elements constitute $1,364,000 or 65 percent of the proposed total cost.

This means there is enormous room for a compromise and phased implementation, that would focus initially at least, on making the streets clean, tree wells attractive and funding the people and equipment needed to do this. In addition, the gold standard for nonprofit administration costs is 15 percent, not the 17 percent of the proposal. With city synergies this realistically should shrink to 12 percent.

Finally, there is nothing worse than getting out ahead of your promises, i.e., leading with marketing, advertising, communications, even public events that set up visitors for experiences that cannot be delivered. The key to visitor satisfaction is the fun of shopping the unique Street that is King ... as Ms. Putens observed, blocks of vacant storefronts offer little opportunity to spend your hard earned cash. They look like shared failure.

So, let’s cut to the chase — spend where you must, today — make it affordable, right now. Let’s keep the the heart of the BID Zone beating. We don’t need unnecessary costs to get this off the ground and make our house look better.

Kathryn Papp