Sandpoint BID – Business Improvement District
It’s All About the Fiber & The Commercial Kitchen, part deux
By Anita Aurit
The Feb. 15th Council meeting did not address issues of significant importance to business. They had a presentation from Monica Hubbard from TING who gave a brief timeline of fiber services stating that they are focused on “planning and design”. They are communicating with residents, deciding which neighborhoods had the highest preorder. They will begin speaking with businesses in late March or April. They are currently working on fiber lease agreements as well as land use agreements and state franchise. Their first hire will be a city manager and the city will be leasing property to TING for a network hut of 3000 square feet. The lease amount will be 1945.00 per year. (A $162.08 monthly rent is very nice, would like to find a deal like that for my business)
The Kitchen That We Kicked You Out Of Is Coming Back
The commercial kitchen equipment that was taken out of the “Business Incubator” that is now being leased to a private company at 26 Cents per foot (June 15 2016). After leaving these food businesses stranded, I found it a bit arrogant to hear the mayor say, “It’s going to be great to bring back the kitchen that was removed.” If only the mayor could “bring back” the start-up businesses that either failed or incurred draconian costs to drive miles away to use a commercial kitchen.
March 1st Meeting – The BID Survey
The city administrator announced at the Nov. 2 meeting that the BID survey would be out in 2 weeks. After some technical glitches and the holidays, survey submissions deadlines were extended.
Finally, on March 1, Jennifer Stapleton provided a presentation on the BID survey conducted by Boise State. There were many bullet points (I will include some below) but the bottom line is….there was no definitive information and no decision made Here are some of the highlights:
- 471 business surveys were sent, 11 were returned as undeliverable, Boise State received 144 surveys, meaning there was a 31.3% response rate Keep in mind, surveys were mailed to businesses and property owners. Property owners DO NOT pay the BID tax unless they operate the business on their property. In other words, a number of folks who have never paid BID tax or participated in the BID were surveyed. IMHO the survey should have been for those paying the tax only. How can we know the real response rate of businesses when those who are not BID participators are included?
- Stapleton noted, “There isn’t anything definitive to report” and “it wasn’t clearly stated whether the BID should stay or be dissolved.
- In order for the survey to be statistically significant, 45% response rate was needed and the 144 surveys represented 31.3%. Again, if only BID paying entities would have been surveyed, the picture would be much clearer.
Responses went as follows:
- 53% said they rated Sandpoint as a good place to do business
- 43.5% said they were very familiar with the BID
- 95% know what they pay as their BID tax
- 65% indicated that the BID services (advocacy with Sandpoint City Council, website, etc.) were not valuable
- The Christmas Tree lighting and holiday lights were noted as valuable by the majority
- 69% found the BID planning and marketing valuable (interesting when 65% said the BID services were not valuable, doesn’t make sense)
- 83% did not agree that the current advertising and events of the BID increased their business.
- There was a substantial response to the open ended questions however, those questions had not been gone through and tabulated yet
- Additional analysis is needed
- One of the bigger challenges was that a significant number of respondents classified themselves as “other”
- Just over half disagreed that the funds spent by the BID were beneficial
- 64% said the BIDs advocacy with the City Council was not helpful
- There were other responses noted but including them is moot because the bottom line is there was no definitive answer.
Jim McKiernan, editor of the Daily Bee spoke in favor of the BID. This is the man who wrote an editorial regarding the BID stating that those businesses who do not pay should have their utilities cut off.
At the end of the day, nothing was decided and the issue was punted to the next council meeting on March 15th. The mayor ended the discussion with “Don’t expect us to make any hasty decisions.”
My Two Cents
When I opened my business the forced BID tax was administrated by the DSBA (Downtown Sandpoint Business Association). In 2013 the Chamber took over BID administration and offered many promises, most of which were not kept.
Case in point. This snippet from the Chamber’s white paper on the BID administration takeover lays out the business sectors that were created. Each sector would have an appointed representative. My appointed representative (Professional Services) never contacted me. I had to schedule an appointment at the chamber and she was present. No further communication happened and I recently found out that she no longer lives in Sandpoint. I am not the only business with an “invisible” representative.
The chamber stated that BID members would have input on the expenditure of BID monies. This was not my experience. I attended every BID member meeting, never was visited by my “representative” and never had any input in budget/expenditure matters. This is particularly perplexing to me as the BID spent over 50% on administrative costs annually and spent BID tax funds on private business events that other BID members were not allowed to participate in.
I found the comments in the white paper about the city’s involvement with BID oversight interesting. At the July 6, 2016 meeting about the BID budget, the mayor and council were less than enthusiastic about how BID monies were being spent and exhibited surprise at the expenditure information presented at the meeting.
After years of taxation without representation and absolutely no benefit from the BID funds, I am of the mind that something needs to change, and soon. This “death by a thousand cuts” is beginning to be a bit infuriating.
Finally, I am intrigued by the flip flop of the city regarding who can and cannot change or disestablish the BID. In years past the city attorney has stated unequivocally that the city has no power to disestablish the BID and that businesses must initiate the process, obtain a certain number of signatures and jump through other hoops. Somehow I missed the part where the legal control of BID disestablishment went from the business owners paying the tax and the city collecting the tax.
I urge all city businesses who have an opinion about the BID to attend the March 15th meeting.