Jeny's Tacos

Jeny’s Tacos is pictured at 215 S. Main St. in downtown Kendallville. The Economic Improvement District board is attempting to reauthorize a voluntary assessment to pay for downtown services. Building owners Dep and Stephane Hornberger have already voted “yes” to reinstate the voluntary fee.

KENDALLVILLE — About a year after Kendallville Economic Improvement District members voted — or in more cases didn’t vote — to discontinue a voluntary assessment, the district’s board is trying again to reauthorize the organization.

Property owners have through Oct. 25 to vote on whether they want to continue paying a voluntary assessment of .3 cents per $100 of assessed value to support downtown services including snow removal, tree trimming, weed control and holiday decorating.

In order to be approved, at least 51% of all 63 property owners in the district must vote to reauthorize. If approved, the EID would be renewed for another five-year term starting Jan. 1.

Board members said owners with multiple properties in the district only receive one vote each.

Unlike political elections, where winners are declared based on whoever wins a majority of the votes cast, the reauthorization of the assessment is based on the results of all voters, whether they cast a ballot or not.

“Ballots which are not returned by the due date will automatically be considered a ‘no’ vote. In other words, your vote matters,” said a letter included in the ballot sent to all downtown property owners.

This year’s vote is a second-gasp effort from the EID, which did not garner enough support for reauthorization last year its most recent five-year term exhausted. Last year, only 22 of 63 property owners returned ballots and of those, only eight had voted in favor of keeping the district.

After some confusion about how the voting was handled and whether the results were valid, the EID board has since continued to operate in an interim fashion, utilizing existing funds — totaling $51,132.72 on Jan. 1 — to carry on business. No assessments were collected this year, however.

Three of five EID board members met Wednesday and reported that about a dozen ballots have already been returned. But also, seven ballots that were mailed out came back as undeliverable, meaning a second effort will need to be made to contact the owners.

The board took some steps this time around to try to make sure everyone knows about the voting and returns a ballot, including a pre-posted return envelope, following up with owners and simply pulling together an updated listing of who owns the buildings now.

“Their postage is already paid for them, we got an updated address list from the county,” board member Greg Williamson said. “We’ve got a stack of returns. We’re going to follow up with phone calls. We’ll be going through the ones that got returned and know we make contact.”

If reapproved, the assessment ends up costing a business owner about 10% extra on their annual tax bill.

That .3-cent assessment is tiny compared to typical property tax rates. In comparison, Kendallville property owners pay rates of 42 cents for Noble County government, $1.23 for Kendallville city government, 91 cents for East Noble School Corp. and 18 cents for Kendallville Public Library.

For example, The Strand Theatre paid about $5,000 in property taxes in 2018, with a $502 EID assessment.

In return for those assessments, the EID provides multiple services, with the most notable being downtown snow removal during winter. Other services including downtown landscaping, flowers and tree trimming, weed spraying, animal control and Christmas decorations, as well as support for the annual Kendallville Car Show, helping host the Vintage Market downtown during Kendallville Apple Festival and promoting downtown events and businesses.

In 2018, the EID opened the year with about $55,000. It received revenue of $9,842.65 during the spring tax collection and $8,341.52 during the fall tax collection. Annual expenditures totaled about $23,000 last year.

As of July 10, the EID had spent around $5,500 this year, taking its bank account to about $45,700.

A few downtown owners have already cast their ballots in favor of keeping the district around.

Kyle Baker, who owns Pizza Forum and its building at 120 S. Main St., said he was a “no” vote last year, but this year he’s already voted “yes.”

“I voted to keep it this time. The first ballot a year ago when it came around I just bought the building right before then, I didn’t know what the EID really did for the building owners,” Baker said.

Last year, Baker thought the EID just did snow removal and maintaining downtown flowers, and said he ended up shoveling his own sidewalk most of the winter because removal crews didn’t get the job done fast enough.

But since then he’s gathered more information about all of the things the EID does downtown and — with a note that he’d like to get a more rapid response on the snow removal — and he’s on board now.

“I saw what they actually do so it changed my mind,” Baker said.

Dep Hornberger and her husband Stephane own 215 S. Main St., which houses Jeny’s Tacos, and they also opted to extend the EID another five years.

“We realize the importance of the EID to downtown Kendallville,” Dep Hornberger said. “Even though we are additionally taxed at .003 for every $100 of assessed value to our building, we desire to keep the menu of uninterrupted service that the EID provides.”

Hornberger said she also values the promotion and support the district helps provide to business owners and downtown festivals — she and her husbands are among the organizers of the annual car show — more reasons to keep the district going.

Williamson, owner of A&G Supply at 203 S. Main St., indicated at Wednesday’s meeting that he was “borderline” on whether he would vote yes or no.

For purposes of disclosure, KPC Media Group Inc.’s office at 102 N. Main St., is a property located with the EID boundaries. The owners indicated they will be voting yes in favor of the assessment.

The EID board is hosting a meeting at the Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. to provide one last chance to discuss the district with property owners before the voting closes.

Then, Kendallville is hosting a town hall meeting on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the matter ahead of the Kendallville City Council meeting at 7 p.m. that night.

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