Hollister Downtown Association prepares to lose one-third of its budget
Local agencies such as the Hollister Downtown Association and the Economic Development Corporation may be feeling an immediate pinch as the Hollister City Council takes steps to eliminate the redevelopment agency.
The agency has funded one third of the Hollister Downtown Association’s budget and has provided $50,000 annually to the Economic Development Corporation, in recent years.
“It came down at such a weird hour, no one has had time to think of this,” said Nancy Martin, the executive director of the Economic Development Corporation on the California Supreme Court ruling that RDAs cannot be maintained by making a payment to the state. “We are still analyzing what that will result to us. But I am sure we will have answers in the very near future.”
When asked what the impact would be if the city does not continue to fund $50,000 to the EDC out of other sources, Martin declined to answer.
“We can’t answer that question at this point,” Martin said. “Asking that question is not relevant at this point in time.”
While Martin said her agency is still “analyzing” numbers, Brenda Weatherly, the executive director of the Hollister Downtown Association, met with her board mid-week to devise a plan to deal with the cuts.
“We actually had a special board meeting,” said Gordon Machado, the president of the HDA board. “The hatchet is coming down on the 1st (Feb. 1) and it’s hard to recover in a short period of time.”
Machado said there will be another subcommittee meeting to discuss the cuts, but for now the group is looking at cutting staff hours and asking for more volunteer time to fill the difference and cutting the office space in half to save on expenses.
“Mainly we all got together and brainstormed different ideas,” Machado said, some of which included unique ideas for fundraising from other communities or organizations.
Weatherly said when she talked to RDA staff the first week in January, she was told that the HDA would not receive any of its monthly payments from the RDA after Feb. 1. The HDA receives $65,000 from the redevelopment agency to support events and activities in downtown Hollister.
“That has increased over the years with the various projects that we’ve done,” Weatherly said. “We are looking at options such as downsizing our office or taking pay cuts. The reality is we have to decrease expenses while increasing revenue.”
Weatherly said the HDA’s other funding comes from membership dues and fundraisers.
“We are really trying to preserve what it is we have done over the last 25 years,” Weatherly said. “We think the events and things we do for downtown are important. It’s an organization that provides things for the community to do that are basically free. But we need funding to make that happen.”
Laura Cole-Rowe, the executive director of the California Main Street Alliance of which Hollister is a member, said that she has been touching base with cities that are members of the program since the ruling was announced.
“One thing I am doing this week is to call all of our cities who do receive RDA funding … to find out how they are doing, how much is being cut and what they are planning to do,” Cole-Rowe said.
She said the other cities she has talked to are experiencing cuts ranging from 20 percent to up to 70 percent of their budgets.
Cole-Rowe said the cities are looking for alternative sources of funding, such as a business improvement district, which levies an assessment on property owners or business owners to cover some program costs. Hollister’s staff tried to collect enough support for such a district, but did not receive enough support from property owners to take it to a vote.
“I went around this summer and did seminars in Northern and Southern California and said they really have to diversify – not just because of what is happening with the RDA,” Cole-Rowe said. “A lot of nonprofits are just dependent on grants … a funding plan needs to be diversified, particularly in today’s economy.”
While the city continues to work on its local plan for dissolution, state officials are still trying to find a way to make RDAs viable again – or at least to delay dissolution to give cities more time for a transition.
The RDA is scheduled for dissolution on Feb. 1, although there is an urgency bill in the State Senate to extend that date until April 15. The extension would require two-thirds approval by both houses of the legislature to go to Gov. Jerry Brown and the same two-thirds approval to override a veto. Dissolution of the RDA would result in reduced agency functions and a related reduction in staff, said City Manager Clint Quilter.
The California Redevelopment Association, a lobbying and legal counsel agency that represents RDAs around the state, is working with the League of California Cities on “a legislative program to restore and reshape redevelopment for the future.” It is unclear what such a program would look like or if it will garner support.
The Hollister City Council in a special meeting Jan. 9 voted to become the successor agency of the RDA in order to play key day-to-day roles in assuring that the existing obligations of the former RDA are properly paid and that the agencies’ properties and other assets are properly disposed of. According to a city staff report, an oversight board of seven representatives selected largely by the county, various local education districts, and taxing entities will oversee the actions of the successor agencies.