Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — The Dallas Urban Renewal District will have to place a popular grant program on hold for a few years due to financial constraints.

The Building Improvement Grant, which property owners with the district can apply for to get assistance in making repairs and improvements to their buildings, has exhausted its budget for the year. District staff believed there was money available to shift toward the popular program, but that was not the case.

Dallas’ urban renewal district includes the downtown area and surrounding blocks and collects taxes to pay for improvements within the district, including helping owners with repairs and upgrades to buildings, and improvements to streets and sidewalks to make the area more attractive to visitors and business owners. The Dallas City Council acts as the district board, and city staff also work for the district.

The Aug. 3 meeting of the Dallas Urban Renewal District Advisory Committee was dedicated in part to making a recommendation to find money within the district’s approved budget to increase funding for the Building Improvement Grant.

That did not happen. Instead, the committee recommended that the district cut expenses by $16,000 this year.

“We were hoping we could move some money around internal to the urban renewal budget and allocate some more money to this program to fund more of these projects,” said Dallas Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell. “What we learned instead by doing some more financial forecasting was that the situation financially was a little bit more acute than we originally had thought. Bottom line is, we can’t afford to do anymore projects this year, or even next year, and potentially even the year after that.”

He said if the district didn’t curtail spending, it would end up in the red by fiscal year 2024-25. The advisory committee recommended cutting from the professional services, minor improvement grant and special projects budgets to save $16,000.

“The purpose of that is to shore up our accounting, so that we don’t run into the negative in future years,” Mitchell said. “That is where we are at financially. I wish it were a different picture.”

He said from his perspective, the news isn’t all bad. The grant helped the building owners in the district.

“There’s another way to look at this situation that really is a cause for celebration. The success that we saw with our program this last year, we certainly hit the sweet spot as far as finding a program, a dollar amount and a pent up demand with our property owners in the urban renewal district,” he said. “We leveraged our money really well against private sector money, so we should be really proud of that accomplishment. It’s unfortunate that we run ourselves out of money.”

He added the situation is short-term.

“We’ll get back to where we need to be in a few years, especially when we get some of our debt service paid off,” he said. “We can be back in business again.”

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