A failed BID

Voluntary tax district didn't meet property owners' expectations

Supporters of Augusta’s downtown Business Improvement District haven’t given up on it yet. But it appears many businesses have.

The BID, created in 2007 to provide extra cleaning and a sense of safety from the river to Greene and 13th to 6th streets, is up for a renewal vote at the Augusta Commission next Tuesday.

That is, if enough property owners even want it renewed.

That was not the case as of midweek. Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, acknowledged early in the week that the BID was about 20 votes short of passage. Renewal requires support from 51 percent of property owners in the district, or from owners of at least 51 percent of the properties’ assessed value.

For the record, the company that owns The Chronicle supported the BID’s creation five years ago, but will not support its renewal.

We feel, as do many property owners in the district, that the difference has not been dramatic enough; that the infrastructure condition is the same or worse off than before; and that the $350,000 in BID assessments only duplicate what property tax monies are paid to the city to provide.

At this point, the program must be considered a failed experiment.

Moreover, it was a much different world in 2007. Since the financial crash of 2008, and the long slog since, a lot of businesses simply don’t have the money for what amounts to a luxury.

We’re simply going to have to put the arm on the city to step up and provide the basic services it’s supposed to.

Perhaps nowhere is this more vital than in the downtown area, the heart of the city. As one BID member noted to us, get the heart healthier and the limbs become healthier too.

The Business Improvement District was essentially a voluntary tax among property owners downtown. The sentiment now seems to be that it’s too much to pay for too little in return.

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