Newton's Special Improvement District nearing vote

Property taxes would be increased for some business owners

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— The Newton Town Council took an additional step last week towards adopting the Special Improvement District by hearing a review of the proposal from the township’s economic advisor attorney.

The Special Improvement District is a district management corporation consisting of town board members and business owners that would determine and expedite a marketing plan to bring more activity to targeted business areas.

Attorney Jennifer Credidio combed over details of the proposed ordinance and made adjustments in accordance with feedback from the council at the Feb. 24 meeting. Her legal firm is fine-tuning the language in conjunction with the consulting company, North Branch Associates, which originally proposed the formulation of the district to the council earlier this year.

“We’ll get this perfected for the next meeting,” said Town Manager Thomas Russo.

There is no word yet on when the town council will vote on the proposed ordinance.

Property taxes would be increased for business owners in the district, which would pay for the efforts to increase consumer activity, according to the proposal.

Should the SID be adopted, the proposal states that Tier 1 businesses will have their property assessment increased 15 cents per hundred dollars of property value.

“These properties are the downtown core. Spring Street and lower Main Street around the square,” Credidio said. “They will enjoy the initial impact of the SID.”

Tier 2 businesses will be charged 7.5 cents per hundred dollars of assessment value, according to the proposal. Tier 2 will include all commercial properties not within Tier 1 and residential rental properties of 5 units or more, Credidio said.

The council decided Feb. 24 that the SID should stick to a timeline of five years to achieve its goals.

Councilman Daniel Flynn said he was concerned about the ability for the SID to alter its plan and change course during a five year timeline.

The council determined that the SID would have the ability to make changes at any time if the council agreed.

Mayor Joseph Ricciardo said he believes success will take five years and that amendments can be made every year.

“Nothing happens overnight when it comes to government agencies. We know that,” Ricciardo said.

Changes were made at the meeting to determine which businesses fall into the SID district.

The SID area was expanded to include high rise residential units and townhouses that weren’t previously included.

Town Planner Jessica Caldwell said the high rises were left out at first because they were considered to be low income housing.

A clause that was inserted into the plan was the need for the six business owners on the SID board to begin their tenure with graduated terms.

One representative from each of the two tiers would serve one year at first, one would serve two years at first, and then one representative would serve a full three year term. This staggered approach would enable the yearly change of one business owner representative while keeping two representatives in each of the two tiers continuously serving.

One section of the proposal allows the SID board to vote on special assessments to pay for operational and physical improvements on an annual basis with the approval of the town council, according to Credidio. She also pointed out that another section of the proposal provides business owners the right to appeal an assessment.

According to the proposal, an annual audit by an independent auditor is required, which would include a report on all of the board’s activities.

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