DVI asks all Downtown property owners to pay fair share

  • By Max Marbut
  • | 12:00 p.m. July 23, 2015
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
Jake Gordon
Jake Gordon
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For the first time since the Downtown Business Improvement District was created, all property owners within the district are being asked to contribute their fair share to help fund Downtown Vision Inc.

“It’s a good-faith effort to reach out to the exempt property owners,” said DVI CEO Jake Gordon.

A letter was sent July 17 to 18 property owners. The parcels have a combined value of $134.2 million. The 1.1 mill contribution, if all submitted a payment to DVI, would total $147,658.54.

The letter explains DVI’s role in providing the Ambassadors program, picking up litter, removing graffiti, deterring nuisance activity and serving as a clearinghouse of information for businesses, residents and visitors.

Gordon said Tuesday at the organization’s board of directors meeting that asking exempt property owners to contribute is a new concept and he realizes their contribution would be voluntary.

Since 2000 when City Council enacted the ordinance establishing the district and DVI as its administrator, commercial property owners each year are assessed an additional 1.1 mills on their ad valorem taxes to fund the nonprofit organization.

It provides services within the 90-square-block district which includes portions of the Northbank and Southbank.

The assessment from commercial property owners in DVI’s 2014-15 budget is $684,405. Certain properties, primarily those owned by faith-based and nonprofits, were declared exempt from the additional assessment.

The Strand apartment building on the Southbank is at the top of the list in terms of real estate value and potential contribution.

With an assessed value of about $46.7 million, the 1.1 mill contribution would be $51,365.60.

DVI’s services sustain or even increase the value of their property and the owners are getting the benefit, Gordon said.

“The property owners know they’re not obligated by the ordinance to pay, but it’s impossible to improve Downtown and not improve their property,” he said.

The letter to the exempt property owners was prompted by a discussion with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa when DVI’s 2015-16 budget was presented to Mayor Lenny Curry’s office.

The city also is being asked to pay its fair share this year, including an additional amount representing the value of the Duval County Courthouse.

The city’s budgeted contribution for 2014-15 –– based on the value of municipal properties within the district the city already contributes for –– was $311,660. DVI requested an additional $162,000 for 2015-16, based on the assessed value of the Duval County Courthouse.

During the budget meeting, Mousa asked if DVI has asked anyone else to contribute. That’s what led to the request made to the property owners.

“It’s an obligation for us to reach out,” said Gordon. “The letter starts the conversation with the exempt property owners.”

On the issue of the city’s increased contribution request, DVI board member Bill Prescott, who was at the meeting with Mousa, said that’s a “good news, bad news” issue.

He told the board the good news is the increase is included in the budget Curry presented to council Monday.

“The bad news is that’s where we were last year,” Prescott said, referring to the council’s 2014-15 budget hearings.

The increase was rejected last year by the council Finance Committee.

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