Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District considers dissolving

The Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors discussed the future of the organization, including its possible dissolution, during Tuesday’s meeting. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District discussed the future of the organization on Tuesday, including its possible dissolution.

“I think we as a group need to have a serious discussion about where this organization is going. We’ve done some great things and we’ve got a few people that really step up and do a lot. We’ve got a pretty big board and there’s some people that don’t do a lot,” BID Board of Directors President Jim Schlesier said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The regular meeting of the BID Board of Directors typically draws attendance by roughly 12 members and city representatives each month from a board that lists 18 members and three city representatives on its website.

“I think the people that have really stepped up just don’t feel like we can move forward on that alone and I agree,” Schlesier said.

Schlesier noted that City Clerk Jennifer Mazur, who represents the city on the board, will have an expanded role next year becoming more active in economic development, taking an administrative role over the recreation commission to help coordinate and organize activities and other special events.

“After speaking to her I was thinking and I really feel like her group is a great place for BID to be,” Schlesier said.

Councilman-at-Large and BID board member Vincent DeSantis pointed out that the BID has historically been a volunteer organization funded by a 15 percent surtax on the real property located in the BID footprint, creating an annual budget of about $23,000.

DeSantis compared the volunteer Gloversville BID to the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation that consists of roughly five employees providing services to property owners and businesses located within its boundaries, noting taxpayer funding of the BID will not allow the organization to reach that point.

“When you have a volunteer organization it really depends on all of the work of the people in it, we’re kind of in that middle zone where we can’t really become more effective,” DeSantis said. “We all have outside responsibilities, we all have outside jobs and everything and it’s kind of a difficult thing.”

The BID provides a variety of services downtown including putting out and caring for the potted plants, caring for Castiglione Memorial Park, creating the micropark, supporting economic development activities and putting on a number of annual community events including the Southern Adirondack Wine and Food Festival, Chalk Art on Main and the Home for the Holidays Tree Lighting and Downtown Stroll.

DeSantis noted that consultants from LaBella Associates commented on the fact that a volunteer organization shoulders so much responsibility downtown while preparing the city’s Downtown Development Strategy.

“The response from them said ‘that can’t be, you just can’t do it with volunteers — you can’t do it effectively with volunteers,’” DeSantis recalled.

“I really believe it needs more structure, not just volunteers,” Schlesier said. “I think we really need to decide whether there’s a better way to do what we’re doing.”

Schlesier again pointed to the recreation commission as a suitable group to take over the BID’s responsibilities when Mazur steps into her expanded role.

“You’d have a paid employee and volunteers and more volunteers could obviously join if they wanted to and I think it’s a much better fit because it’s tough getting volunteers,” First Ward Councilwoman and city representative to the BID board Marcia Weiss agreed.

DeSantis noted that if the BID was dissolved and the functions taken up by the recreation commission, the BID’s unattributed fund balance could be shifted to the commission.

Weiss noted the possibility of the city adding funding for the recreation commission in future budgets if the group took over the BID’s current duties.

“I know that I would look at that because it’s important for the city to do these things. I think it’s important for the city to grow in a fashion that allows all of the people in the city to do these functions,” Weiss said.

Other BID duties that would not be carried out by the recreation commission, DeSantis said, could potentially be taken up by a merchant’s association, if the downtown business owners chose to form such an organization, as was previously suggested by BID board member Susan Casey.

“Rather than a mandatory 15 percent surcharge on your taxes, if it’s a merchant’s association it could be more amorphous, you could get in it as a volunteer, you could pay dues and it could be an association that promotes the businesses that are members. I think there’s a lot of merit to what Sue said,” DeSantis said.

A merchant’s association would not be limited to entrance by businesses and properties within the BID footprint, other organizations and individuals in or around the downtown could potentially join.

In order for the BID to be dissolved, more than 50 percent of the taxpaying property owners in the BID footprint would need to vote in favor of its dissolution or votes from more than 50 percent of the total assessed valuation of the BID would need to be cast in favor of dissolution. The vote would then need to be ratified by the Common Council.

BID Board of Directors member Karen Smith estimated the number of taxpaying property owners at 51.

With the end of the year approaching, along with the need to put out a letter asking for nominations to the board before holding an annual meeting early in 2019, the board determined the organization’s possible dissolution should be put to a vote among the taxpayers following a discussion session in early January.

The BID board voted to schedule discussion sessions on Jan. 7 at 5:30 p.m. and Jan. 8 at 8 a.m. to try to best accommodate the varying schedules of property owners. Notice of the discussions and the potential impact of dissolving the BID, including the discontinuation of the annual 15 percent property tax, will be sent out by certified letter along with voting ballots.

Ballots can be returned by hand at the discussion sessions or by mail postmarked by Jan. 15. If the property owners vote to continue the BID, nomination ballots for the Board of Directors will be mailed out during the week of Jan. 20 ahead of the annual meeting that will be held on Feb. 26 at 8 a.m.

By Josh Bovee

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