A more transparent downtown

DDA already compliant with much of new state law

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Noise and Toys owner Steve Szucz wipes down an album at his record store in downtown Alpena. Noise and Toys is a business within the Downtown Development Authority District, which just received word it and all other DDAs in the state must be more transparent on the uses of their funding and short- and long-term plans. The DDA is also required to hold a pair of public informational meetings each year.

ALPENA — Changes to the state’s Tax Increment Financing Act will require downtown development authorities around the state to be more transparent on how their tax increment funding is utilized.

DDAs in Michigan are funded through tax incremenet financing, or TIF, which allows the DDAs to capture taxes on the year-over-year increase in property values within the DDA districts.

Many of the new requirements mandated by the Michigan Department of Treasury already or will be implemented by the Alpena DDA, which is working on a new website to provide users easy access to the new information that needs to be on it.

Alpena DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry said her organization currently posts its meeting minutes, budget, and fund balance information online. She said the additions to the act will require DDA to include annual audit results, its TIF plan, contracts, staff contact information. Gentry said the DDA must explain why it has not spent any funds not expended over a five-year span, what the intended use of them will be, and a timeframe for the use.

The DDA is also required to list annual accomplishments, investments, finance goals and objectives for the following year. A list of events and promotional campaigns is also required.

“I think the state’s intention is to increase transparency for what DDAs are doing and why they are collecting money,” Gentry said. “I feel we have done a good job with that already with the digital things we are doing and what we have available on our website. This year, we also began doing an annual report we share with the public, so a lot of these requirements we can already check off.”

Gentry said the DDA has a monthly meeting that is open to the public, but the state wants to add a couple more that are geared toward face-to-face community engagement. She said plans are being made to host those meetings, which will be held before the end of the year.

“We are now required to have semi-annual informational meetings and they can’t be during a regular board meeting,” she said. “We will talk about the budget, goals and objectives, events, and basically inform the public of the goals and direction of the authority. I think that is a good thing, and it is a good way for us to educate people about what our purpose is and what we are doing with our money.”

The updated act took effect on Jan.1 and copies of the TIF plan needed to be submitted to the state no later than April 1. The DDA has 180 days from the end of its fiscal year to make all the required information public. The DDA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. Gentry said she expects the new website to be online before the end of the month.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.