Blogger’s Note: In my previous post I outlined for you the City of Spur’s budget deficit problem. If you haven’t already read that post (”Spur City Council faces a daunting task”), I ask you to read it before you continue reading this one.
Spur City Council members are facing the difficult task of balancing the city’s budget for the upcoming 2009/2010 fiscal year which begins on October 1. The City must overcome a shorfall in revenue next year versus this year’s revenue. Their proposed budget will cut the Spur Main Street Program after December 31, so the city has only budgeted funding for that program for the remaining three months of its contract with the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Main Street Program.
Spur Mayor Deborah Harris and the city council are hoping to find funding for the program from other sources. Harris told the council that when the program was adopted three years ago, individuals and businesses had promised to help fund the program but as the years passed that commitment from the community fell away.
Shortly after Spur became a Main Street city, Friends of Spur Main Street, a nonprofit organization was formed to take donations from individuals, businesses, and other organizations to help fund the program. Now that organization needs someone to step up to the plate to raise funds to keep the program going when the city pulls out at the end of the year.
The Main Street Program is responsible for the downtown revitalization efforts which have occurred during the past three years in Spur. It is also responsible for the adoption of Spur’s Type B sales tax which recently accrued enough revenue to begin helping Spur businesses improve their facilities and services. Hopefully that same fund may be used to attract new businesses as well. Main Street is also responsible for the adoption of a Hotel/Motel tax which created funds to promote tourism.
Many in our community don’t see the program as necessary, and maybe it is unnecessary, but it is vital if we as a community really want to improve our community. Whether that be aesthetically or economically, the Main Street Program could and would be a key component in achieving improvement in both of those areas.
I receive a daily devotional via email at my office every morning. This morning’s was about a verse in Proverbs: “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”—Proverbs 14:4; the devotional goes on to explain, “This interesting verse focuses on two possible approaches to risk and personal investment. You can choose a ‘clean stable’, avoiding the dirt, mess, and hassle of taking care of the ‘ox’ (pet, child, opportunity). But then you also miss out on the reward: what the ‘ox’ could bring into your life (’a large harvest’). Certainly there are times to ‘buy the ox’ and times not to. As opportunities present themselves, pray about whether this is an ‘ox’ that’s worth all that’s entailed with giving up a ‘clean stable.’ —Diane Eble, author of Abundant Gifts: A Daybook of Grace-Filled Devotions
Many can only see the exterior of the program and some of the problems it has exhibited which usually comes with initiating a new program. Yes, our sidewalk improvement project in downtown Spur left a distasteful air, but we can’t blame the Main Street Program for that. It is the nature of the beast (program) to look like a war zone during the project, and, in our case, shoddy workmaship and poor engineering took a toll on the face of it in the end. But we do have new sidewalks. Also many blame Main Street Manager Joyce Howze for the problems, but I feel she has done the best she could without much direction from the city or the Main Street Advisory Board. Whoa!!! What I just said will definitely get your attention if you want to take it personally. But there again, the board and the city could have used more direction as well.
But this is the type of program that takes years to see with the naked eye. I have never realized this more thanI have in recent months as a member of the Spur Economic Development board. That’s the board that governs how our Type B sales tax is spent for economic development within our community. We as a board had to wait a while to allow the money to accumulate before we could do anything substantial with it. Also all of the members of that board were new to this idea of economic development and how we could spend the funds, so consequently we had to create policies and practices as we went along. In the last couple of weeks our board has awarded about $15,000 to two downtown businesses for major improvements to their buildings. So things are starting to happen, and it has taken almost two years since the Type B sales tax went into effect.
Everyone in the community is a stakeholder in a local Main Street Program and benefits from effective downtown revitalization because it results in a better quality of life. Broad-based community support is a very important element of the Main Street model, and I am afraid this may be where the program may have faltered in its formative years. It failed in diligently seeking community support, and we as a community failed in giving it.
I believe we all should receive a “do-over”. Let’s see what we can do to keep the Main Street Program by supporting it with our time and our money. Granted some revamping needs to be done, but with willing community members much can be accomplished, and this “ox” called Main Street can drive the benefits home come harvest time.