DDA Can Meet Fiscal Priorities

July 12, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Downtown Development Authority recently added six projects to its priority plan for the new fiscal year.

Two of the six will be funded in full in FY05, while the remaining four will be partially funded this year. The half-dozen projects will cost the DDA $1.89 million by FY09, with $687,000 of that total due in FY05.

Here is a rundown of the six.

  • The DDA will spend $850,000 over three years on streetscape upgrades to Grandville Avenue SW from Cherry to Bartlett streets.

  • The DDA will spend $350,000 over five years on a number of cultural, parks and open space projects.

  • The DDA will spend $320,000 over three years to assist Senior Neighbors and Senior Meals on Wheels Inc. with building a new downtown senior center.

  • The DDA will spend $200,000 during FY05 for improvements to Lake Michigan Drive NW from Mt. Vernon to Seward avenues.

  • The DDA will spend $150,000 over the next three years to implement a strategy for a downtown arts and entertainment district. Urban Marketing Collaboration, a division of the Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group, is the consultant on the project.

  • The DDA will contribute at least $20,000 during FY05 to the Senator Vandenberg Statue Committee for a 9-foot-tall sculpture of Arthur Vandenberg, which will go up near the corner of Pearl and Monroe.

Money for all but one of those projects will mostly come from the local tax-increment revenue the DDA receives annually from property-tax payments made in the downtown district. For FY05, the board expects to get $2.77 million from that source, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the $3.11 million the board will have for downtown projects.

The DDA will also get $178,452 from the public transit millage and $130,000 in interest payments on investments as part of that $3.11 million for FY05.

The six projects added to the priority plan are far from the only expenditures the DDA will have this fiscal year. In all, the DDA will spend roughly $8.3 million on projects, incentive programs, street upgrades, and improvements to the infrastructure.

To meet those expenses, board members will have to dig into the DDA’s fund balance. That account should have $9.6 million in it for FY05, and with the $3.11 million expected in revenue this fiscal year the DDA should have $12.71 million at its disposal.

The board should end FY05 with $3.68 million in its fund balance.

But for the foreseeable future, at least through FY09, the upcoming fiscal year will be the last time the DDA will have a fund balance that exceeds $3 million. By the start of FY09, the account is projected to be down to $1.58 million. Falling to that level could result in fewer projects being backed by the DDA within a few years.

“It’s fair to say the DDA’s budget gets tight in a few years,” said Jay Fowler, the board’s executive director.

Just a few years ago, the DDA fund balance topped $14 million.

The DDA is expecting to receive $5.65 million in school increment-tax funds for FY05. But those dollars can only be used for debt service, like the bond payments for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, and not for improvements downtown.

The board also has a non-tax increment fund that should bring in $268,660 in revenue to the DDA for FY05. Funding for the implementation of the arts and entertainment district will come from this account, $50,000 for each of the next three fiscal years.

The total FY05 DDA budget is $15 million.

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