River Square parking (copy)

The Public Improvement District's annual budget includes $8,000 for a trolley ambassador, an employee who would ride the downtown trolley, give directions and answer questions about the area.

Downtown businesses will see more spending on cleanup of graffiti and bird poop, more marketing and an “ambassador” riding the downtown trolley next year.

The downtown Public Improvement District board voted Wednesday for a budget that keeps the extra tax that businesses in the PID pay at 10 cents per $100 of property value. The board had narrowed its options to the 10-cent rate and one with a 9-cent rate and less spending in several areas.

The 10-cent budget would provide $59,000 for cleanup services, as opposed to the proposed 9-cent budget which would have allocated $26,000. City Center Waco Director Megan Henderson said the money will be used to address an uptick in graffiti and bird poop cleanup and to replace the PID’s daytime security patrol with another service with more customer service training, dubbed “clean and safe services.”

“It’s primarily two different services,” Henderson said. “They both could run anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 apiece if we’re doing as much as it’s going to take to keep things clean.”

Henderson said the board has typically budgeted between $5,000 and $15,000 for graffiti control but spent almost $20,000 last year.

“You won’t come close to addressing it with the 9 cents, but that’s a decision you all need to make,” board member James Clifton, who represents the Dr Pepper Museum, said before the vote.

Both versions of the budget include $22,000 to reimburse City Center Waco for non-staff expenses, like print costs.

The budget also includes $8,000 for a trolley ambassador, an employee who would ride the downtown trolley, give directions and answer questions about the area. Henderson said the PID ran a pilot trolley ambassador program in summer of 2017.

“The bulk of it is the same,” she said. “What we wind up with is some differences in marketing, merchant support, having the trolley ambassador, and having some extra programming.”

Peter Ellis, who represents the Praetorian Building on the board, said before the vote that he prefers the 9-cent rate and that the board could use some of its carryover funding from previous years to make up the difference in services.

The 10-cent budget passed after a failed motion to pass the 9-cent version and a failed motion to pass the 10-cent spending levels while setting the tax rate at 9 cents, which would have required more spending from the carryover funding.

The PID tax rate, added on top of other property taxes to businesses in the district, has long been set at 10 cents per $100 of property value. The total assessed value of properties subject to the PID tax this year is almost $626 million.

“I still feel that Waco is in a position, with so many new visitors coming every week, that we’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression,” said Sam Brown, who represents Brown Properties on the board.

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