Ypsilanti DDA: Declining revenue strains annual holiday decorating budget
The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority's declining revenue has put a strain on its annual holiday decoration budget and officials are looking for ways to continue the program this year.
Every year, the DDA decorates its downtown districts with garland wrapped around street light poles, wreaths, and tree lights.
"It's not on a grand scale, but it's stuff people will notice if it's not there," Colbeck said. "It creates a sense of place and it goes back to our long term visions of being welcoming and inviting."
Over the past three years, the DDA has steadily decreased its holiday lighting and decorations budget in accordance with its declining revenue.In 2007-08, the DDA received $316,559 in tax revenue. That number has declined over the years and in 2013-14, the DDA expects it to further decline to $239,138.
In 2009, $14,482 was budgeted for the holiday lighting program and that number was nearly cut in half in 2010 to $8,795. In 2011, the DDA only set aside $2,339 for the program.
This year, the DDA has allocated $1,500 toward the lighting and decorations. Despite the large decrease in funding, Colbeck said he is certain the annual program will not be canceled.
"We certainly reconginze the value of holiday lighting and we’re working within reason of our budget," Colbeck said. "We are still commited to doing something and we haven’t worked out the details yet but there is absolutely no intent on doing no lighting. We’re looking at other parties that can assist."
Last year, the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau stepped in to pay the Department of Public Services $4,000 to install the decorations. Colbeck said it was a one-time deal.
If the DDA is unable to secure enough funds, Colbeck said they would begin to examine what areas should take priority in terms of getting decorated. In the past, the DDA has run lights down side streets in addition to the main streets and this potentially could be eliminated.
"If we have to make reductions, where they are will be strategic," he said.
However, Debbie Locke-Daniel, executive director of the Ypsilanti Visitors Bureau, said if necessary, she'll do the same again this year.
"I think what we’re kind of looking at is, if I don’t pay for it they’re not going up," Locke-Daniel said. "I absolutely don’t want the community to not have lights. I would not want the Grinch to steal Christmas in downtown Ypsilanti."
Locke-Daniel said she doesn't have a "magic number" yet for the amount of funds that would come out of the bureau's development budget, but she believes it's important for the program to continue.
"We're all in the same game and we want to make the downtown vibrant and attractive," Locke-Daniel said. "If we don't have an attractive downtown, it's kind of hard to promote."
In an effort to cut costs even further,Colbeck has reached out to DPS Director Stan Kirton to discuss possibly implementing a sliding scale to use when figuring out how much the services will cost. Locke-Daniel said previously DPS workers were paid hourly for their services.
"The YDDA would like to work with DPS to come up with a plan that still allows us to decorate the DDA districts while not breaking our budget," Colbeck wrote to Kirton. "While the holiday season may seem far off, the holidays will be fast upon us and now is the time to plan."
Colbeck said the DDA also plans to reach out to other organizations to gather possible volunteers to help install the decorations.
"If we can get some volunteers, that can be a savings for us," Colbeck said. "We did that last year and it worked very well."