By Boyd Walker
Welcome to Alexandria where we support small businesses and public engagement! With one number, 311, you can contact city hall (alexandriava.gov/Alex311) and
we aim to make our city beautiful with hanging baskets, banners and lights in the winter! And we have a marketing organization, Visit Alexandria, and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to promote and help businesses.
But what if a small group of people felt that wasn’t enough because they are spending a significant amount of money marketing themselves in a business organization that only represents a small number of the businesses on King Street. And they had 22 events last year. Can you name one?
You’re tired of paying for this and having to do all the work, so you convince the city to hire a consultant who will work with the assistant city manager for public-private partnerships, and this consultant knows a way that you can pass on the bill to taxpayers who may or may not know this is coming. In fact if they don’t, even better, so for the first six months you keep it quiet and under wraps.
Since you love Alexandria, you decide to launch the public dog and pony show the day before Valentine’s Day. Around 10 people show up for your first meeting. Only a couple at subsequent meetings. You miss your first deadline to garner the required signatures to move your initiative forward, so you extend it and have some more meetings. You try to come to the meeting of your opponents.
Now your second deadline has passed, and where is the big announcement of your success?
There are signs in windows, for and against. But because you could never describe the problem, and it was not a universal problem felt by all business and property owners, and you could also not provide a return on investment for those you are handing the bill to – the 489 property owners in the proposed BID Zone, including 90 residents – instead of uniting everyone on our Main Street, you have divided them.
On one side are those who can easily afford to pay, and are willing to throw money on the table, and on the other are small businesses who wonder why they are being asked to pay more in taxes.
A small business in Old Town pays sales tax, usually a share of the property tax, and if they are a restaurant, a meals tax. We are just recovering from the pandemic and taxes were just raised an average of 5% because assessments went up, even if the rate didn’t. An additional tax of 10 cents may put some of these smaller businesses out of business. Maybe that was the point? If not, it could be a consequence.
Tell City Council to ask the BISD supporters to withdraw their proposal so that we can work on building our businesses this summer and not fighting a new unnecessary tax. Go to bidno.org to learn more.
The writer is a native Alexandrian who owns property in the proposed Old Town business improvement district boundary.