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There have been many questions asked about the formation of a Neighborhood Improvement District in South Side. With the help of Susie Puskar, the neighborhood outreach coordinator exploring creating a NID in the neighborhood, The South Pittsburgh Reporter

 

February 21, 2012

There have been many questions asked about the formation of a Neighborhood Improvement District in South Side. With the help of Susie Puskar, the neighborhood outreach coordinator exploring creating a NID in the neighborhood, The South Pittsburgh Reporter has attempted to answer some of the more frequently asked questions.

Why are residences included in the NID instead of just creating a Business Improvement District?

A major concern in the neighborhood was the balance of business and resident voices and concerns. A BID doesn't necessarily serve the needs of residents and with a NID they pay for the management share to have a voice in decisions.

Is the NID just the South Side Local Development Company under a different name?

It is not. No staff will be carried over and the boards are completely separate. The Improvement District is currently in the process of applying for its own 501(c)3 status. The Improvement District and the SSLDC have different focuses. While the SSLDC was focused on real estate development, the NID will be concerned with public space improvements.

What is the duration of a NID?

Five years. After the five years there is a renewal process through City Council, it does not automatically renew. Ninety-five percent of NIDs have been extended after their initial term.

Who is eligible to vote in creating a NID in South Side?

Every property owner within the boundaries of the NID is eligible to vote, one vote for every property. If a person owns 15 properties, they will have 15 votes.

Property owning senior citizens with Act 77 status will be excluded from having to contribute to the NID. Are they still eligible to vote in the creation of the NID?

Senior citizens with Act 77 status within the NID boundaries will be eligible to vote in the creation of the NID. However, they will not be able to vote for the Improvement District's Board of Directors, unless they make a contribution equal to what they would have had to pay had they not had Act 77 status.

How much will property owners have to contribute for the NID each year?

The proposed fee structure for properties in the South Side NID is: Act 77 (Senior and Disabled low income), 0 mills; Residential Homestead, 2 mills; Residential non-Homestead, 3 mills; Commercial off East Carson, 4 mills; Commercial on East Carson 10th – 25th streets, 5 mills. As an example, a commercial property on East Carson assessed at $100,000 will pay $500 per year and a property owner in an owner-occupied home with an assessed value of $100,000 will pay $200 per year.

Is there a cap on how much a property owner will have to contribute to the NID?

Yes and no. Property owners in owner occupied homes will be limited to a maximum of $40 per month. Commercial property owners will be capped at $7,500 per year. Residential rental property will not have a cap on how much they will have to contribute.

How is the assessed value of the property determined for the purpose of the NID?

The NID contribution is based on the total assessed value as determined by the Allegheny County Real Estate Assessment as of November 2011, not by a property's sale price. Newer homes will be determined by the new assessed value once any Builder's Credits have been removed. The total assessed value for the NID will be frozen at the November 2011 levels and will not change with the county's reassessment process.

Can this amount change from year to year?

The plan allows for the Board of Directors to raise the millage rate by no more than five percent over the course of the five-year term. Any rate increase has to be less than or equal to the rate of inflation. The rate can only be raised a maximum of three times in the five-year term, but for no more than five percent total.

Will commercial and residential property owners pay equally into the NID?

No, 85 percent of fees generated by the NID will be paid for by commercial and rental property owners. Owner occupied property owners will contribute 15 percent of the fees even though they make up 35 percent of the 3,000 properties in the district.

What will be the make-up of the Board of Directors for the NID?

The Board of Directors includes: two seats for commercial property owners; two seats for residential property owners; one seat for the city council representative (required by law); one seat for an institution or non-profit (required by law); and one or three at-large seats. Although Act 77 status senior citizens who don't pay into the NID aren't eligible to vote, they are eligible to serve on the board. The commercial, institutional and at-large seats don't require the representatives to live in the district.

When would an election be held for Board of Directors' positions should the NID be put in place?

Fairly immediately following the creation of the NID. The current Steering Committee would serve as a transitional board to facilitate the election of a board.

How long will directors serve on the Board?

Initially, one-third of the board will elected to a one-year term; one-third will be elected to a two-year term; and, one-third elected to a three-year term. After the initial terms all directors will be elected to three year terms except for the seat reserved for the council district which isn't limited.

Who would collect the fees if a South Side NID is created?

It's open for the Improvement District board to decide. There are several options: The city could collect the fees and pass them along to the NID; The Improvement District could collect the fees on its own; or they could decide to use a third-party collection service.

Is there a proposed budget for the NID?

The law requires a First Year Budget be submitted for the Improvement District. The estimated First Year Budget for the South Side Improvement District includes: Public Safety, $370,000; Public Space Maintenance, $165,000; Parking Provision, Public Space Improvements, and Contingency, $137,087; Administration, $125,000; Marketing, Communication and Advocacy, $115,000, for a total of $912,087.

Can the budget change after the first year?

Yes, depending on the priorities of the community.

Are assessment fees the only income for a NID?

No, the NID will be able to receive donations and apply for grants.

Where did the funding come from to pursue a NID in South Side?

The majority of the funding came from grants through the City of Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority with smaller amounts coming from a variety of other sources.

What happens if the South Side Planning Forum doesn't vote to support petitioning City Council to create a NID?

The South Side Improvement District Steering Committee is a committee of the South Side Planning Forum. If the Planning Forum does not reach consensus on supporting the NID, it will not petition City Council to create a NID. However, it is possible for a Planning Forum member group or another organization to petition City Council on its own.

Do the South Side Improvement District Steering Committee members get paid for being on the committee?

No, Steering Committee members are all volunteers. The only person drawing a salary to explore establishing a NID in South Side is Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Susie Puskar.

Will the NID be hiring staff?

The NID will need staff. The level of staffing will be up to the Board of Directors of the NID. There will most likely be an executive director and people to clean the streets and provide security.

What is the timeline?

If the Planning Forum reaches consensus, in late March or early April City Council will be asked to initiate action and the plan will be mailed out to every property owner and tenant in the proposed district along with 30 days notice of a Public Hearing in City Council Chambers. After the Public Hearing the plan is mailed out again this time to only property owners with any changes along with notice of a second Public Hearing in City Council. After the second public hearing the vote can be mailed out to property owners. City Council then has 45 days after the vote is taken to pass an ordinance creating the Improvement District if they choose to.

If the neighborhood supports the creation of an Improvement District is City Council obligated to vote create the district?

No, City Council is not obligated to create the district even if the neighborhood is in favor. However, City Council may not create an Improvement District if the neighborhood is opposed to the creation.

Is it true when a vote is taken, those property owners who fail to vote are counted as a "yes" vote?

The way the law is written, property owners have to register their disapproval of the district. It's not so much those who fail to vote are counted as a "yes" vote, but that only "no" votes are counted.

Do those who are in favor of the district have to vote?

No, they can if they so choose, but they don't have to.

Will the services in the plan only benefit Carson Street?

No, cleaning services will be throughout the district. Security services will be throughout the district. Some of the other services in the plan have to do with making parking easier for residents and with the parks in the neighborhood.

Will there be more public meetings in the neighborhood?

There aren't any more public meetings scheduled to discuss the NID although there will be the two Public Hearings in City Council Chambers.

 

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