Rockford considers extending Downtown Development Authority 30 more years

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in Rockford may be extended another 30 years if the city council approves.

The DDA is up for renewal in 2013 but Young said he hopes council will extend the tax dollar capture now. Young said it is possible future laws may prohibit the extension of DDAs and there is no reason to wait.

The City created the DDA in 1984. DDAs take a percentage of tax dollars from the district—in this case Rockford’s downtown—and reinvest in that area. In Rockford the DDA has funded banners, light poles, benches, planters and paid for half of the purchase of the former Northland Pontiac property. “It is very effective,” said Young. “The downtown wouldn’t be what it is today without the DDA.”

Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio said between DDAs, brownfields, smartzones and other tax capture or abatement programs the county loses use of $6 to $7 million dollars annually. He said there are 27 DDAs in Kent County.

Delabbio was Rockford’s City Manager when Rockford created their DDA. He said the program has undeniably been good for the town, originally putting in the downtown clocks and other projects.

The County cannot opt out of DDAs, but as they expire, the county can enter into new agreements where the County could have some say in tax dollar use, Delabbio explained. An example would be to exempt dollars voted upon for a specific use, such as correctional facilities or school millages.

Floyd Havemeijer, Rockford business owner, said he was involved in the creation of Rockford’s DDA. “I was for it, but only if it would be for a limited time and expire,” he said. “It’s stealing from Peter to pay Paul. The schools and the county need the money so they have to raise taxes.”

Delabbio said the law allows DDAs to exist forever, once created. Originally a county could opt out of DDAs if they desired, but in 1995 a law passed eliminating that option.

“It’s up to them [city council],” Delabbio said. “If they want to extend it, there is nothing we can do about it.”

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