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Bainbridge Island Downtown Association asks city for support in next biennial budget

Downtown Winslow is Bainbridge Island's little economic engine, but with the economy continuing to sputter, some would like the city to get out and help push.

Andie Mackin of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association said her organization has done much to help keep the island economy moving. But as the city continues to refine its next biennial budget, Mackin in pressing officials to restart its financial support for the downtown association.

"In order to continue to deliver the economic revitalization work that we do, the community events, the promotion, the economic development, attracting and retaining businesses, we need the city to reinstate funding," Mackin said.

"And (the city needs to) play a more active financial role in our partnership," she said.

Though the city has contributed to the downtown association in the past, tough budget times at city hall led to the elimination of funding in 2011.

The city council will meet this week with the 2013-2014 biennial budget again on its agenda. Mackin has been at prior council meetings to ask officials to chip in once again.

In 2009, the city directed more than $40,000 to the downtown association. In 2010, that funding dropped to approximately $20,000.

Officials said the city, however, has faced tough budget choices in recent years.

"We did make contributions to BIDA in past years, but when we faced a serious deficit we had to cut that," said Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos.

That's little solace to Mackin, who notes that the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association is the only Main Street program in Washington that is not financially supported by its own city.

Yet Bainbridge Island reaps the benefits of the association's work, Mackin said.

"If they want to see the direct benefit of a downtown association, all they have to do is look at their sales tax revenue," Mackin said.

Downtown Winslow's 201 businesses mustered $448,855 in local sales tax revenues during 2011. The revenue constituted approximately 18 percent of the sales tax revenue across the city.

During the first six months of 2012, despite dropping to 172 businesses, downtown Winslow generated more than $211,000 in local sales tax revenue; roughly 16 percent of the city's total sales tax revenue.

The numbers indicate that almost one-fifth of the island's entire sales tax is produced by just 3 percent of its businesses, all huddled in Winslow, and backed by the downtown association.

"The city gets the benefit right now of that economic engine without paying to ensure that it is going to thrive," Mackin said.

The council has laid out a list of funding priorities for the 2013-2014 biennial budget, and expects City Manager Doug Schulze to report Dec. 5 with recommendations on how to achieve them.

City officials acknowledge the downtown association's role in organizing events and other activities that draw locals and visitors alike to Winslow.

"I think a lot of the things that [Bainbridge Island Downtown Association] does are what people associate with our city," Hytopoulos said. "The city gets credit for that and we aren't helping, and I worry about the viability of the organization."

The downtown nonprofit is solely dedicated to maintaining the island's historical main street and helping it thrive. It is one of 12 accredited Main Street programs in the state.

The association is currently funded by charitable donations of its supporters. It receives approximately 40 percent of its funding from sponsorships, grants and membership dues.

The other 60 percent comes from business-and-occupation tax donations. The state of Washington allows businesses to direct their B&O taxes to Main Street programs for a 75-percent tax credit.

"The state doesn't give us that money," Mackin explained. "We go out and solicit it as a charitable contribution."

But the association does more than just holiday events and marketing.

"On an intangible level, we do the work of creating a downtown that is part of the community," Mackin said. "It creates a small-town feel; we attract businesses that provide a downtown that is the heart of a community."

 

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