DANVILLE — City officials plan to pull the city's portion of funding from Downtown Danville Inc., the business merchant association that promotes the downtown business district.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said Thursday that he sent a letter to DDI officials in November informing them that the city intends to pull its $30,000 in funding in 2012.
He sent the letter during the city's tax levy discussion last fall, he said, to give the DDI board enough time to request an increase in its tax levy to offset the loss of funding.
But DDI Executive Director Dana Schaumburg said Thursday that DDI decided to keep the levy the same. The previous year, the levy decreased, she said, and even with the possible loss of city funding, DDI didn't want to ask for more money from the taxpayers in its special service area this year. DDI's funding comes from multiple sources: about $51,000 from the tax on property owners within the Special Service Area in the downtown; $30,000 from the city; and more than $15,000 from various fundraisers and other sources.
Schaumburg said DDI has sent a letter to aldermen and the mayor asking that the proposed cut be reconsidered. In the letter, she said the city's funding is vital to the work that DDI does in the downtown area. DDI has a board of downtown business owners, property owners and representatives of downtown businesses and entities. Its stated mission is to promote a vibrant business, residential and entertainment district while serving as a catalyst for economic, social and cultural enrichment. More specifically, DDI's goals are to grow the downtown business district, lead or be part of infrastructure improvements, events and promotions that benefit the downtown and work with building owners to fill vacant spaces.
Schaumburg said she and the DDI board had just finished compiling new short-term and long-term goals for the organization when they received the city's letter.
Although the proposed loss of funds won't happen until the city approves its budget this spring for its new fiscal year that begins May 1, Schaumburg said DDI has already made cuts, including eliminating two part-time staff persons, leaving her as the organization's only employee. She said DDI has included the $30,000 city funding in its new budget, which started Jan. 1, in hopes that the city will reinstate the funding.
The mayor said in no way is the city turning its back on downtown Danville.
"And in fact, if you look at our increased amount of spending over the course of the last few years, we have increased our investment in the downtown area," said Eisenhauer, who explained that the city has spent nearly $100,000 in the downtown area in the last year, which includes the salaries of one and a half full-time employees. "We want to continue to partner with the businesses and entities in the downtown area to make sure any event dedicated toward promoting either the downtown or the community as a whole are fully supported. We will continue to utilize our staff and available resources to work with DDI and downtown businesses."
In the mayor's November letter to DDI, he writes that the "city has created a Downtown Services Division, spending nearly $100,000 for parking enforcement, special event support and increased maintenance and beautification of the downtown area. ... It is this Administration's desire to continue funding the Downtown Services Division appropriately to provide services equal to or greater than we have offered this past year."
The city has contributed to DDI for many years and until 2011, its annual contribution had been $37,000. Eisenhauer said the money was originally provided as maintenance revenue from the city to DDI, and that was long before the city began maintaining the downtown area in the manner it does today.
"I feel very strongly that the dedication of funds the city has expended, along with donations contributed by many downtown business and property owners, have made significant, positive improvements to the appearance of the Downtown Danville area, and I feel we can better utilize that $30,000 within our own efforts to beautify the center of our city," Eisenhauer said in a statement Thursday.