One of these was for the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and the other eight were for the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA).
The Business Improvement District gives us goals, objectives and explanations before getting to the half page of financial totals.
The BID does make it a point to tell you that over 500 property owners contribute to the downtown master plan. So it's not all tax money, just most.
Still, the city needs your money to make the magic happen.
This year they got $580,000 in tax money, but next year they’ll need $615,000.
For what, you might ask?
- Maintenance & Streetscapes: $175,000
- Administration: $144,000
- Downtown Master Plan Implementation: $102,000
- Safety: $102,000
- Business Development: $50,000
- Marketing: $40,000
I really wish we could get a further breakdown of those numbers. For instance, I’d love to know why 23% of the BID's budget needs to go to admin costs.
It’s the largest increase to their budget, year-over-year.
Why is that?
Well, they don’t tell us. And no one on the City Council or in the media asks them to.
So they’ll probably just get that money, no questions asked. I imagine that’s how the BID wants it.
For Admin, the BID gives us a couple paragraphs of what they do and then lists 5 objectives:
- Maintain an accurate database of Downtown BID ratepayers
- Have a system in place to communicate with those ratepayers
- Oversee common-area maintenance in downtown
- Identify new priorities for the BID based on ratepayer input
- Retain businesses downtown
It’ll take $144,000 to do all that next year. I suspect most of that is to pay the salary and benefits packages of the top brass.
All told, the Downtown Business Improvement District is getting $35,000 more than last year and no one seems to know, or care, as to why.
Now let’s go through the 8 documents the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) released this week.
Back in February the city told us they planned to hire a new communications specialist for the MRA.
That person would make about $58,000 a year to try and convince the public that the MRA was in their best interests, and that continuing to fund it with more money each year is really the best thing to do. So on May 31 they hired Maci MacPherson to do that job. Before that she was a park manager for MT FW&P in Helena.
Well, wouldn’t you know? It takes money to do that job!
So Maci will need an additional $67,000 next year for graphic design work, social media outreach efforts, reporting, auditing, and other management services.
The MRA thinks so highly of its mission and the services to carry it out that they feel their records need to be digitized so that future UM students can use them “for research, case studies and thesis preparation.”
No, I’m not making this stuff up.
And it only costs $22,000 to do!
If an urban renewal district sunsets, then the MRA can’t skim any more money off the top of the tax receipts for their own ends.
That’s why it’s so critical to either extend the lives of those districts, or squeeze every possible penny out of them before they sunset.
That’s the idea behind spending $500,000 in URD III Water Network Program to extend the city water distribution system.
This will also make it easier to argue that we should expand city boundaries further into the county in coming years.
The city and county pride themselves on the Bitterroot Trail.
That’s why they want to spend $624,000 for trail lighting. This will extend from 3rd Street to 14th Street, or eleven blocks.
The Bitterroot Trail is so long it stretches into another URD, URD II.
That district will need $1.8 million to light their portion of the trail system, from Toole Avenue to the Reserve Street Pedestrian Bridge.
URD II sunsets in 9 years, or around 2031.
Before that happens, the MRA wants to squeeze as much money from it as it can. So they need money to help implement the 9-Year-Strategic Exit Plan for the Sunset of URD II.
That’s an actual report.
The report calls for the completion of the Montana Rail Link Bridge on the Bitterroot Trail. This is the railroad bridge the city wants to take over and convert into a pedestrian bridge.
The idea is to find a consultant who will prepare a study to see if the bridge could be reverted to pedestrian use…and then possibly reverted back in the future to train use.
Seems kind of backwards to me.
The whole conversion project is supposed to cost $3.5 million. They key bit there is "supposed to."
Back in 2020, the city bought 19 acres off of Scott Street for $6.3 million. They then entered into an agreement with Ravara in 2021 to develop 9 acres of that into mixed-use housing, some of which might even be affordable.
The other 10 acres are going to be kept by the city so they can consolidate city departments there.
The idea is to eventually move Missoula Water to this area, freeing up a huge portion of the West Broadway Corridor for serious development…which the city aims to profit off of immensely. It helps that the feds kick in a lot to spur that 'needed' development.
Ravara Development LLC formed in February 2021 for the sole purpose of doing this project and cashing in on that federal money.
I hope the local media digs more into who these people are.
The city will pay for the design and engineering work to help Ravara. That comes to $3.5 million…though the MRA admits this is a placeholder estimate.
I suspect that number to balloon significantly in the coming year. City Council should question this. We both know they won’t.
The final document the MRA provides likely came from their new communications specialist, as it’s a fancy and snazzy PPT-style PDF document with lots of images and flashy text.
It provides a lot of information on the MRA’s budget and what the budgets are for the various URD’s.
It’s 45 pages and worth looking into at a later date.
Or maybe another blog or news site will do that.