Boosting Downtown Could Be a Vote Away - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Boosting Downtown Could Be a Vote Away

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September 27, 2007

Albany - -  City leaders want you to give them new power to spur downtown development. Over the next month or so, you'll likely hear a lot about a Tax Allocation District. In November, voters will decide whether to allow those districts in Albany. City leaders say it's the next toward improving downtown and will build on this week's city commission vote to create a Riverfront District.

\Nathaniel Zebrowski\Taxpayer] [CG at 0:30:Name\James Taylor\Assistant City Manager] [CG at 0:41:Name\Brent Solomon\Reporting]  

Nathaniel Zebrowski loves his city.

"Albany is a nice place to be."

But he admits it could use a boost.

"More businesses would mean more people. More jobs," he says.

Albany city leaders agree. That's why they asked the General Assembly for permission to put a Tax Allocation District on November's ballot.

On the ballot, it will say "Redevelopment Powers Law". If voters approve it, city leaders will have the power to set up special tax districts.

"It's a request by the commission for the citizens to give us the authority to use this tool should the commission decide to use it or choose to use it to fix an area that's slum and blight," says Assistant City Manager James Taylor.

He says when people think of a Tax Allocation District, they automatically think higher taxes. But that's not the case.

The city will define a certain area as a Tax Allocation District. The tax rate won't go up, but new revenue generated by new businesses will stay in that district. The money will be used to improve the infrastructure, whether it be street widening, extra plumbing or water services. That's expected to encourage more businesses to open up shop.

"The city and the county and the school board still get the same amount of taxes they get before the building went up. The amount of taxes that are paid above that base level now goes to the district for development," Taylor says.

After 10 or 15 years, the district expires and the taxes then go to the city as normal.

"As you get more and more development, it kind of grows, it builds. the more you build, they come, the more taxes you get," Taylor says.

Zebrowski buys in.

"I think its good. I think its real good."

He says he'll vote yes in November.  The city plans to hold several public hearings on the topic before November to help voters better understand the Tax Allocation District.

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