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Annual Funding Approved For Downtown Business District (Subscriber Content)

By Bob Conrad

Reno’s Downtown Business Improvement District received approval today for new property tax assessments of businesses and residences within the BID. The annual property assessments, which fund the BID, were met with some objections.

Downtown Reno Ambassador.
Image: Ty O’Neil

Residents, business owners, and churches cited financial disparities — and the ability for the city to levy fees — in opposition to the new assessments.

Property values have gone up in the past year; so did BID property assessments. Critics, however, said that the assessments are not equally considered and that casinos are favored.

“We object to the lack of accountability by the BID for services, if any, rendered to our neighborhood,” said residential property owner Joseph Dita. “We do not wish to subsidize with our tax assessment the BID which appears to be primarily a marketing campaign for the downtown casinos.”

BID proponents said the program is above board, and the downtown ambassadors have already had a positive impact on downtown.

Reno eNVy owner Scott Dunseath praised the ambassadors, saying they are quick to respond when called for help.

The BID has been criticized — and praised — for its handling of the homeless. Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said that the BID’s ambassadors have freed up police resources to focus on crime while social issues can be tackled by the ambassadors.

BID Executive Director Alex Stettinsky said that two lives have been saved, more than 1,000 wellness checks have been made, over 100 shelter referrals, and more than 20 people were placed into long-term programs.

“There are always areas that will benefit from an assessed business improvement district even though they are not directly a part of it and paying into it,” he said.

Alex Stettinski, executive director for the Downtown Reno Partnership
Alex Stettinski, executive director for
the Downtown Reno Partnership.
Image: Downtownreno.org.

In responding to concerns about dealing with the homeless, Stettinsky said that the ambassadors are not pushing people out of downtown.

“The ambassadors are pretty compassionate individuals,” he explained. “What they do though is, they set a bar of conduct, a behavior for downtown that we condone. They’re basic codes of behavior that you need to maintain so that all demographics can be in down and live and enjoy downtown simultaneously.

“There are situations were the ambassadors would tell a homeless individual — or … any individual — that violates that [code] to say, ‘Please, don’t do this. This is not okay here.’ We would never send them somewhere else.”

Nevada law allows for the creation of business improvement districts in addition to levying assessments on properties each year. Because BID assessments are considered fees, city staff said that churches are not exempt.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the new property assessments.

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