Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Downtown Is Taxed

El Mañana reports today that city leaders are looking to hire a consultant to offer up ideas in regards to spurring economic activity in two of the city's oldest districts, one of them being the downtown area.  Business owners, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, will work with city officials to come up with a plan to revive Districts 3 and 8.  Everything from security, infrastructure, and tax incentives will be taken into account. 

Yesterday I read that many downtown businesses have closed their doors.  The Laredo Sun posted the story (in English) today.

It's truly sad the decline that downtown has experienced.  But as one local businessman commented to me, it's been something that has gradually occurred over decades.  Plans have been put forward for years but little has materialized.  Recently the city awarded Kell-Munoz nearly half a million dollars to come up with a downtown revitalization plan.  We're still waiting to see the fruits of that partnership.  And now we're looking for consultants. 

If downtown were to be completely wiped out -- gawd forbid -- it would be a serious blow to the workforce.  But what would it mean to local taxing entities?  Sales tax collections would dip somewhat and the overflowing Sports Venue purse would take a hit. Then where would we get the money to convert Uni-Trade Stadium into a beach volleyball complex?  What would it mean to LISD when they are looking to buy new trees for Nixon High School?  Let's take a look.

Below is a chart of what LISD is projecting to collect for the 2011 - 2012 year.

Owwwwwwwwwww!!!!!  Over $26 million.  Makes me wonder why LISD doesn't have its own private jet.

In talking to a tax office representative, I learned that they don't track how much of that 26 mil comes from residential taxes, and commercial taxes.  Apparently they don't work on pie charts or graphs that can give us percentages on the money taken in from different sources.  A method of determining how much the business community contributes to LISD would be tedious.  I would have to provide the tax office with each business's account number to obtain the amount of taxes paid yearly.  Or I could look into the appraised value of a business to calculate their tax obligation.  To get that, I would multiply the appraised value with the current LISD tax rate.  It's a challenge, but it's something that I don't currently have time for.

Two interesting bits of information that were conveyed to me concerning LISD's tax take were that:
  • all businesses within the district's boundaries pay taxes
  • and even if a store closes, the district still collects property taxes
If a store is open, LISD can collect revenue on a store's inventory, and on its property.  Of course, with downtown suffering, LISD is taking a hit, but they're still collecting taxes from shuttered spaces.  But they're also collecting taxes from Pep Boys on San Dario Ave., and the Stripes on San Bernardo.  All businesses within the boundaries of LISD are helping to construct new buildings and pay for hefty administrative salaries.  

I don't know where downtown will end up.  And I don't know what impact they will have on local taxing entities.  But I wish them, and city staff, luck as they try to make things work.

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