Mount Airy officials have scheduled a public hearing for later this month regarding the awarding of a contract for the management of activities in the city’s Municipal Service District (MSD).
The providing of enhanced services in that district — which includes downtown and surrounding properties — is now handled by a group known as Mount Airy Downtown Inc., and for years before a predecessor organization with a slightly different name was involved.
Mount Airy Downtown Inc. operates as a non-profit corporation contracted to serve as an advisory group to aid the city government in administering funds raised by a special MSD tax that is collected by the municipality. The downtown group also operates in conjunction with the North Carolina Main Street Program.
The MSD tax is paid in addition to regular property taxes, and now is levied at a rate of 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, representing annual revenues of about $75,000. The uses of the money over the years have included new parking lots and other infrastructure improvements that benefit MSD property owners as a whole.
However, a law passed last September by the N.C. General Assembly has changed the process in which cities contract with private agencies to provide services within a municipal service district. As explained earlier by Mount Airy City Attorney Hugh Campbell, this is a budget-minded measure that seeks to ensure the proper expenditure of and accountability for public dollars generated from MSD taxes.
It includes a requirement to put the local MSD contract on the open market for other non-profit entities besides Mount Airy Downtown Inc. to apply to provide services for the district.
Those generally include programs to market the downtown area, reduce building vacancies and increase business activity, property values and the number of downtown residents, along with working in a supportive role with the municipality on economic development.
A request for proposals from interested parties to provide the MSD services recently was posted on the city of Mount Airy website as part of the newly required solicitation process. It was geared toward “qualified” organizations with experience in managing a downtown municipal service district/Main Street program, according to city government documents.
Also mandated is a public hearing regarding the awarding of the contract. The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to hold that hearing during its June 16 meeting.
Under the process, the commissioners reserve the right to reject any and all proposals to provide the MSD services.
The Municipal Service District tax in Mount Airy dates to 1961, when downtown leaders saw a need to provide more parking spaces without financially burdening the town. Raising money among property owners for that purpose was voluntary at first, but since some contributed and others didn’t, the mandatory MSD tax resulted.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.