DANVILLE — At least two aldermen have made it clear that they want the city's $30,000 in funding to Downtown Danville Inc. restored to the city's proposed budget for next fiscal year.
Aldermen Steve Foster, Ward 7, and Steve Nichols, Ward 6, want the city to continue contributing funds to the downtown merchants' association, which has its own operating board, special service taxing area and seeks to promote the downtown business area in various ways. Both aldermen have publicly stated at the last two city council meetings that they want the funding restored, and they will continue asking for that to happen.
As city administration officials were preparing the new budget earlier this year, they decided to pull city funds, which totaled $30,000 last year, from the organization.
DDI is led by an executive director, Dana Schaumburg, and a board that consists of downtown business owners, property owners and representatives of downtown businesses and entities that pay the special service area tax. Its 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.
Nichols said that he feels DDI is important and the city supporting the organization financially sends a message. Nichols said he prefers that the funding be restored in coming weeks as the city goes through its budget preparation process, but if city administration officials decide not to do that, then he's prepared to advocate for that and make a motion that it be done. Nichols said he doesn't shy away from a fight.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he wants to make sure that the issue is handled prior to budget approval time, so that the entire budget isn't voted down because aldermen don't support one line item.
Aldermen may discuss the issue during the city council's budget study session this weekend. Aldermen will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville, to go through the proposed budget.
In November, Eisenhauer sent a letter to DDI officials informing them that the city was pulling its funding in 2012. In response, DDI sent a letter to aldermen and the mayor asking that the proposed cut be reconsidered.
The city is not abandoning the downtown, according to Eisenhauer, but has actually increased its support by creating the Downtown Services Division, which has one full-time employee and part-time employees, and has spent nearly $100,000 for parking enforcement, special event support and increased maintenance and beautification of the downtown area.
The mayor sent the letter to DDI during the city's tax levy discussion to give the DDI board enough time to request an increase in its tax levy to offset the loss of funding from the city. But DDI officials decided not to increase its property tax levy, which levies a tax only within the special service area in the downtown. DDI's revenue comes from its tax on property owners and various fundraisers in addition to the city money.