Merced County Times Newspaper
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Downtown owners to decide on ‘PBID’

More than 200 ballots have been mailed to property owners in the Downtown Merced corridor to vote in favor of, or against, the creation of a Property Based Business Improvement District, otherwise known as a “PBID.”

With a PBID, the owners would be agreeing to assess themselves a property tax that would generate a revenue stream (they would control by a governing board) to improve the downtown area with beautification and landscaping efforts, special events, marketing, and an ambassador program.

“I can tell you with all the research we have done, and all the cities we looked into that implemented PBIDs — this is a no brainer,” said Eric Hamm, a local business owner who volunteered on the local PBID steering committee.

The PBID would essentially replace two other existing tax mechanisms: the Downtown Maintenance Parcel Assessment (that affects property owners); and the Double Business Licensing Tax (that affects downtown business owners).

However, the PBID does NOT replace existing city services in the downtown area which will continue on the City of Merced dime. That includes: Police patrols and calls to service, tree trimming, garbage pickup, street sweeping and lighting, Bob Hart Square maintenance and infrastructure improvements, among other things.

The PBID district would take up approximately 25 square blocks of the downtown area. It is roughly bounded by 16th Street to the South, R Street to the west, 18th and 19th Streets to the north, and G Street to the east.

The PBID is also allocated into three benefit zones to reflect the level of service and special benefits each parcel will receive.

Annual assessments for individual property owners are based upon an allocation of program costs and a calculation of lot square footage, plus building square footage, plus linear street frontage.

The assessments are considered across the board for all property owners in the PBID district, including those that are government agencies. So the City of Merced would be a contributor — actually the largest contributor — to the PBID budget. The city would also have a seat on the PBID governing board, and officials have already indicated that the city manager would be the representative.

In its first year, the PBID budget is expected to have an estimated $426,000 in revenues, or 98 percent of the property assessments.

The ballot results are expected to be revealed during the Aug. 7 Merced City Council meeting that starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall. A public hearing on the formation of the PBID district and the levy of assessments will also be held at that time. (Owners who did not receive a ballot can do so before Aug. 7 at the City Clerk’s office.)

If the PBID garners a majority of votes in the election, the next step would be for the City Council to vote on an adoption of a resolution for the PBID.

Under state law, the PBID will be able to operate for five years, and at the end of that time period, the district must petition to be reinstated.

According to Frank Quintero, the assistant city manager: “The PBID came at the recommendation of a former City Council subcommittee that visited three downtowns, Visalia, Turlock and Modesto. There was a common thread in the success of each and every single one of those downtowns, and that was a PBID.”

Quintero adds, “These PBID managers really emphasized the importance of having the PBID, especially the ambassador part, where people would go out and either serve as greeters to visitors or as a resource agent telling people where they can go for particular services, and just simply be a cheerleader, telling why it is great to be in the downtown area.”

The draft PBID management district plan also includes a description of a “Community Engagement Team” that would “provide safety services for the individual parcels located within the PBID in the form of walking, bike or vehicle patrols. The purpose of the Community Engagement Team is to prevent, deter and report illegal activities taking place on the streets, sidewalks, storefronts, parking lots, and public alleys. The presence of the Community Engagement Team is intended to deter such illegal activities as vandalism, graffiti, narcotic use or sales, public urination, trespassing, drinking in public, illegal panhandling, and illegal dumping. The safety activities will supplement, not replace, other ongoing city police, security, and patrol efforts within the PBID.”

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