City Council subcommittee OKs Downtown Phoenix Partnership budget increase request

(Evie Carpenter/DD)
The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is going to the City Council for a bigger 2014 budget to keep programs like the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors and events like the annual Zombie Walk alive. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is looking to increase its 2014 budget in order to expand its influence in downtown Phoenix, but the extra money wouldn’t be coming from individual businesses.

The City Council’s Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee approved a 2.8 percent budget increase for the Enhanced Municipal Services District, which covers downtown from Seventh Street to Third Avenue and Fillmore Street to the railroad tracks.

The Enhanced Municipal Services District charges an additional tax to businesses within its boundaries to provide for services, such as advertising, that are run by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

The budget request will go to the City Council for vote in November and, if it passes, to a public hearing in December.

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership requested a total budget of $3,124,810 for 2014, almost $87,500 more than last year’s, according to a City Council report.

But the 760 businesses within the district would likely only see a tax increase of a couple of dollars, Downtown Phoenix Partnership President and CEO David Roderique said. Businesses would still be paying 5 percent less than they did three years ago.

As more businesses move downtown, including the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Hotel Palomar Phoenix, their taxes help balance an increasing budget. This means existing businesses do not have to pay more for growing services, said Jeremy Legg, economic development program manager for the city of Phoenix.

“At the end of the day, the impact (on taxes) is negligible,” Legg said.

In a presentation to the council, Legg said only 4 percent of businesses would see an increase of more than $100.

An increased budget would allow the partnership’s services, such as Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors and Clean Team, to continue as costs grow due to inflation and greater demand, Roderique said.

Ambassadors, who can be seen in orange shirts scattered throughout downtown, provide directions and destination suggestions to visitors and locals. The Clean Team removes fallen trees, plants new ones, picks up trash and paints over graffiti.

An increased budget would also help the Downtown Phoenix Partnership afford to put a greater emphasis on events, of which stakeholders said they wanted to see more, Roderique said. These include Mardi Gras, Zombie Walk and Holidays in Downtown.

The partnership created a department specifically for events, which had previously existed under the marketing department, Roderique said.

During the subcommittee meeting, Councilman Michael Nowakowski asked the Downtown Phoenix Partnership to consider creating a venue for cultural, art and entertainment events.

“A place where if you have nothing to do on the weekend, you can go downtown and something is going on,” Nowakowski said.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams also asked the Downtown Phoenix Partnership if they thought about expanding their border from Third Avenue to Seventh Avenue.

“When I think of downtown, I think of Seventh to Seventh,” Williams said.

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is looking into expanding the boundaries west of Third Avenue as well as north of Fillmore Street, Roderique said.

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