BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Property owners within the Montclair Center Business Improvement District will not see an increase in this year’s special assessment tax bill.
The township has approved the BID’s $665,760 assessment for the 2021 fiscal year, the same as last year’s assessment.
Property owners in the BID will be assessed at .00182% this year, or 18.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, the same as last year. This year’s assessment is based on $366,454,100 in property values, up from $366,141,000 last year. An owner with a $1 million property will pay $1,820 for the special assessment tax this year, the same as last year.
The BID represents more than 300 retailers and restaurants, mainly along Bloomfield Avenue, and raises revenue with a special assessment paid by property owners based on the total assessed value of retail and combination housing/retail properties within the district. It acts as the go-between for businesses in the district and governmental agencies, supplements the township’s beautification and maintenance of the downtown area, recruits new businesses, markets downtown and businesses, and holds and promotes events.
The special assessment tax doesn’t affect businesses that aren’t in the BID, and is separate from the other taxes all property owners additionally pay for school, municipal, county and library funding. Collectively, those other taxes are set to increase a property owner’s payment by 2.81%, under recently approved or proposed budgets.
The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Main Streets nationwide has been catastrophic, with the number of active business owners in the U.S. plunging by 22% from February through April, according to a study by mainstreet.org.
Executive Director Jason Gleason told Montclair Local that between the start of the pandemic and the end of 2020, there was high turnover in Montclair’s business community — but plenty of innovation and energy. Overall, the BID, ended the year with one more member business than it had at the start of March 2020.
In Montclair, BID has been crucial in communicating state executive orders on closures and reopenings. The organization helped businesses reopen under strict guidelines and pivot with takeout, outdoor dining and curbside pickup for retail. During the summer months, BID closed off Church Street to attract diners and shoppers. It also assisted businesses with sidewalk cafe and tent permits.
Securing a Main Street New Jersey COVID-19 Relief Grant, BID distributed more than $516,000 to 114 businesses. Additional funding supported programs including online shopping services through Beyond Main, classes for business owners, district maintenance and additional online options for shopping and dining.
This spring, BID helped secure and maintain an art installation at Crane Park.
Its $784,310 operating budget also reflects $24,600 in revenue from sponsors and income generated from subleases, far less than the $60,000 BID received in 2020. It also used $20,000 of its $93,450 capital reserve fund. Last year’s total budget was $726,010.
BID is staffed by seven full-time employees and one part-time employee, including a director, a programming and events manager and an office administrator. The budget makes only a small increase to their collective salaries — up $1,440, to $458,000.
The budget also makes slight decreases in spending for health insurance; events and programs; office expenses; vehicle maintenance and equipment; and an ambassador program that handles downtown aesthetics such as plantings, snow removal and sweeping.
But it does step up spending significantly on advertising and marketing — more than doubling it, from $26,000 to $62,000. It also increases spending for visual improvements such as holiday decor, landscaping and art from $25,000 to $40,000.
Gleason said the beautification budget had not been increased in years and would be used for art installments like the one at Crane Park and Church Street last year, and for landscaping to bring a “sense of place” and to draw people to Montclair. During COVID the marketing remained hyperlocal since people weren’t traveling, but now the BID wants to market nationally as a place to visit and to live, Gleason said.
The BID is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization established in 2002 by the local business community to enhance and promote downtown Montclair as a regional shopping, dining and entertainment destination.
The budget was sent to property owners in the BID, who voted on it.