BISD needs to make its case

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After reading your recent article about the proposed BISD, I was curious to find out more. I went to the Old Town Business website to see what was being proposed and learn how the BISD was going to benefit businesses in Old Town. What I discovered was a concerning lack of any business case analysis to show that the benefits of the BISD will outweigh its costs.

While the costs of the BISD were presented with exacting precision, there was no analysis to show how the BISD would provide any tangible benefits to businesses in Old Town. The proposed cost of the BISD is a 9% increase in the property taxes that BISD zone businesses will pay every year.

The estimated size of the benefits, and who will receive them, is not described. How can businesses possibly make an informed decision without seeing, at least on paper, that the BISD benefits, to them, will outweigh its costs?

Without this analysis, how can anyone have confidence that the BISD knows where to focus their efforts to provide real benefits to businesses? If there is no return on investment, the BISD is just another tax.

The BISD presentation does identify some lofty aspirations and a notional list of services to be provided. But, again, without any analysis to show that these are addressing the needs of businesses and to show how these activities could translate into tangible benefits – and how much, to whom – there is no reason to assume that they will.

The decision to create a new entity with the power to tax cannot be taken lightly. One must assume this entity will exist into perpetuity, regardless of the results it provides. One would also reasonably assume that it will seek to enlarge its budget year over year to engage in more activities, and likewise will seek to increase the depth and breadth of its tax revenues in order to fund its expanding aspirations.

A business case analysis is standard practice when contemplating a major, high stakes ini- tiative like the BISD. Without one, no one can make an informed decision. The BISD needs to make its case.

-Thomas Wise, Alexandria

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