Last month, GM proposed the creation of a Georgetown Citizens’ Improvement District. The basic idea is to take the Business Improvement District model and apply it to residents, not just businesses.
This would entail creating some sort of a special taxing district for Georgetown. The funds would be set aside to be spent by an elected board on projects and items strictly in Georgetown. The list of things that this money could be spent on is endless, but GM speculates that the consensus first candidate for funds would be an increase in reimbursable details from MPD.
A reimbursable detail is an MPD police officer who works overtime and is paid from a private source. Both CAG and the BID support reimbursable details in Georgetown already. However, the officers are primarily focused on the main corridors, not the back streets. A Citizens’ Improvement District could pay for more of a police presence in the residential parts of Georgetown.
Which brings GM to the question of the day: What would you be willing to pay in order to fund a Citizens’ Improvement District? For reference, the BID’s budget is over $3 million, but they only spend $150,000 on a reimbursable detail.
There are roughly 4,500 households in Georgetown, containing about 8,500 people. We could double the BID’s reimbursable detail budget with merely a $33 per household or a $17 per person surcharge. (GM thinks, for a variety of reasons, it would be more practical to levy the tax on real estate, not on income, so the per household number is a more apt figure).
If we bumped that surcharge up to $100 per home, the CID would have $450,000 to spread around to various projects around Georgetown including the reimbursable detail. We could match the BID’s overall budget with a $600 per household surtax, although even GM thinks that’s too much.
There are a variety of likely critiques to this proposal. The most salient, in GM’s opinion, is the idea that any dollar spent by Georgetowners on Georgetowners would be offset by the District government simply short-changing us. Any authorizing legislation would have to address this head on. In the case of the reimbursable detail, we’d have to get measurable guarantees from the Second District that they wouldn’t pull back non-overtime officers (for what it’s worth, the BID and CAG have been happy with the reimbursable detail so far). This concern is less strong for other potential candidates. For instance, GM would support giving some money to Hyde-Addison’s PTA. The PTA budget at schools like Janney and Murch dwarf Hyde’s, yet they don’t get short-changed from the District government.
Another critique is that these objectives could be met with fundraising, not taxing. In fact, they already are met in some ways by fundraising through CAG. But this creates a free-rider problem. We all benefit from an increased police presence, shouldn’t everyone kick in?
So what do you think? Would you support a program like this, and how much?