ZEPHYRHILLS — Main Street Zephyrhills staff and board members say the organization will close if city council members reduce an annual city grant from $50,000 to $30,000.
Supporters of Main Street Zephyrhills appeared before the Community Redevelopment Agency this week to oppose reducing the Main Street grant by $20,000. City council members, acting as the CRA, voted unanimously to go forward with plans to put the money toward hiring a CRA director but did not discuss funding for the director’s salary.
Interim City Manager Steve Spina has proposed hiring a CRA director with a salary of $55,000.
“In the past few years, the CRA has been involved in significant projects and activities that are going to have an impact on the community. The updated Community Redevelopment plan called for hiring or having a point person or director for the CRA,” Spina said. “We believe this position will be a valuable asset to the city as we move forward with Re-Imagine Gall Boulevard and redevelopment projects in the area.”
About two years ago, the city agreed to bolster the flagging Main Street organization’s budget with $50,000 from CRA money. The grant was to be temporary, until the organization could rebuild sponsorship income lost during the struggling economy.
The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce also receives $5,000 from the CRA budget.
Council members direct the use of CRA funds, which are portions of property tax revenue assigned to a separate city fund and used for renovating older downtown or residential areas. The CRA fund receives about $72,000 annually.
Main Street Zephyrhills’ executive director, Gina Granger, said that Spina and City Council President Charlie Proctor attended a board meeting last week and told the Main Street board of plans to reduce the grant.
“Spina kept referring to it as a donation,” Granger said. “It’s not a donation.”
In exchange for the funding, Granger said the city requires Main Street Zephyrhills to accomplish certain tasks, including promoting the downtown Main Street business district, publicizing and administering the CRA Facade Grant Program, and holding four events: the Veterans Day Parade, Festival of Lights Parade, Founders Day Parade and National Night Out.
The organization also coordinates with the city and other partners to promote economic development; works with the city and chamber to conduct a survey to identify desired businesses; creates and maintains an inventory of vacant and commercial property in the CRA district; and coordinates with the city on any plans regarding the redevelopment of historic downtown Zephyrhills.
Granger said if the city funds are reduced by $20,000, “we will not be able to survive and we’ll have to shut the doors.”
Commissioners said they did not want to hurt the organization, yet they felt that hiring a CRA director was a wise move.
Spina told the commissioners he was in the process of asking all the organizations that receive funds from the city to produce an audit showing how those funds are used.
The East Pasco YMCA and the Pasco Economic Development Council also receive city funds in addition to Main Street Zephyrhills and the chamber of commerce.
Proctor said he wanted to see organizations weaned off city funds and become self-reliant.
Main Street Zephyrhills is the only organization among the four receiving CRA funds that has told the city it cannot survive without the money.