BRADENTON -- In its final budget process Tuesday before handing over authority of the Bradenton and 14th Street West community redevelopment agencies to the Bradenton City Council in January, the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority sifted through its 2015-2016 fiscal year budget.
Despite notable increases in Riverwalk maintenance plus two assigned police officers for Riverwalk and Old Main Street, the DDA is in a better financial position than expected.
The coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, was projected to be the DDA's leanest year to date.
The DDA is in its next to final year of an interlocal agreement with Manatee County that consumes about half of the Bradenton CRA's $2.4 million budget. When it expires in 2017, $1.3 million annually will be infused into the Bradenton CRA.
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The interlocal agreement was struck under past DDA leadership when the county wanted to relocate its administration building. The deal led the DDA to help pay development costs for the county parking garage and pay back the county's share of tax increment financing dollars in exchange for the county keeping its administration building downtown.
This year's budget includes an increase to Riverwalk maintenance and policing line items. The maintenance budget could increase from $150,000 to $200,000 annually, while the police budget will increase from $136,353 to more than $200,000 for two police officers assigned specifically to Riverwalk and Old Main Street. In recent years, the DDA funded salaries; however, City Clerk Carl Callahan said the city has deferred officer benefits to the DDA as well.
The increase sparked a
discussion about the overall policing plan for Riverwalk and Old Main Street. DDA board member Mike Carter said CRA legislation calls for a community policing plan, which should be created so the DDA has a better understanding of how downtown and Riverwalk are policed. Callahan said a discussion with the police department is needed to see what such a plan would encompass.
"We need to find out what the officers are encountering, the statistics and what Riverwalk users are encountering," Callahan said. "It's always great to say we have Officer Friendly walking the streets but if we are having problems at different times, we want to make sure the officers are there."
Riverwalk and downtown are still covered by regular police patrols, but the two officers funded by the DDA have specific objectives.
Carter said "the bad element seems to show up at 4:15 p.m. like clockwork" when the downtown officer shift ends at 4 p.m.
Board member Greg Green said a community policing plan is a good idea.
"Everyone agrees that it's important but we want to emphasize that this is almost 10 percent of our overall budget," Green said.
A community policing plan may determine the two officers need to work different hours or more officers are needed, Callahan said.
"In essence, whether you have two officers or 10, a plan will be specified and then funding can be set aside for that and the plan can be expanded if you come into more funding in the future," he said.
When the city council assumes control over the two CRAs in January, as well as the Central Community Redevelopment Agency, which is not overseen by the DDA, the DDA will become an independent agency free to concentrate solely on improving downtown. Funding, however, will cease, as the DDA is funded by the two CRAs it oversees.
Part of the city council transition plan is to provide a fixed discretionary spending amount and eventually pursue legislative action to expand DDA boundaries once the transition takes place and the new CRA board begins to budget for all three CRAs as well as the DDA in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.