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Downtown district faces 8% levy increase to fund ongoing RDA activities

Rochester City Council has approved total 2022 assessment expected to be paid by commercial property owners in the special services district.

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Thursdays Downtown attendees make their way through the last event of the season Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Rochester. The summer event is among the activities organized by the Rochester Downtown Alliance. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Rochester Downtown Alliance expects to collect an extra $26,000 from the businesses it represents next year.

The organization, which is funded by a tax levy on a special services district, held its annual funding request flat last year, but asked for the maximum 8% increase this year, which was granted Monday by the Rochester City Council. The increase passed with a 4-2 vote.

“There are things you do in a downturn to make sure you are ready for an upturn, and this is one of them,” council member Nick Campion said of the support provided by the alliance.

Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, who represents the downtown core, said it might be “too big of a leap.”

Joined by council member Shaun Palmer in opposing the increase, she said after a year of holding the levy flat, an 8% increase seems steep.

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The legislation that created the district allows an annual increase of 4% to 8% each year, which was overridden last year to forego an increase.

The alliance, which organizes a variety of downtown events, including Thursdays Downtown and Social Ice, also uses the funding for marketing and physical enhancements in the district.

Andrew Davick, an attorney for the Meshbesher & Spence law firm, said it is not the right time for the increase.

“We’ve had a loss of businesses in this area,” said the attorney, who said he spoke on behalf of Titan Development and its CEO Andy Chafoulias.

“If we add to the levy, we are going to see businesses leaving this downtown corridor,” he added.

RDA Executive Director Holly Masek said the increased funding, which raises the overall levy to $350,659, is needed to continue the work started with the creation of the alliance in 2005 and expanded in recent years with outside funding.

“In order to continue to grow and support these programs, the funding will need to start coming from the special service district,” she said of efforts like the Clean and Safe program.

The 2022 levy increase will be divided between contributing downtown businesses based on their building’s taxable values, meaning the actual rate of increase for individual commercial properties will vary.

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