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Downtown Revitalization budget reviewed
• Planner Smith fears revenue shortfalls
Hallam on corner
Economic Development manager Steve Hallam remains optimistic about improvements being made to downtown Ceres and is working to get the owner of the former bank building on the corner of Fourth and Lawrence to change the facade. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The Ceres Planning Commission, acting as the Ceres Downtown Revitalization Board (CDRAB) reviewed the proposed spending plan for the funds paid by downtown businesses last week.

The Ceres City Council will also review the budget at its first meeting in June.

A total of 46 businesses pay quarterly assessments to the district to fund activities that promote the economic vitality of the downtown core.

The city is proposing a budget of $38,150 with $13,800 in projected revenue, leaving a deficit of $24,350. However, CDRAB would make up that shortfall from an accumulated reserve of $84,076.

The expenditures include: $15,000 for landscaping services, $5,000 for the banner placement and replacement and to install holiday lighting. The budget also includes $1,000 for wayfinding signs and $10,000 for a downtown incentive program which has yet to be developed and $5,000 as matching funds for any business enhancing their facades through the city program. 

“We’ve continued to fund that although nobody has taken advantage of that façade renovation assistance program primarily because of the prevailing wage restrictions,” Steve Hallam told the board. “But this year I am anticipating that as we begin to look at possible programs to assist businesses as they come out of the COVID-19 pandemic we might be glad we have that program in there this year.”

CDRAB's budget is expected to end on June 30, 2021 with a balance of $61,558.

Board member Laurie Smith wondered if some unrealized project dollars might be nixed since CDRAB may not realize revenue because of shutdown businesses.

Hallam said the wayfinding money has been a placeholder. He said the façade matching funds could be removed but not less than $1,500.

“I continue to work on a prominent downtown business owner who runs a furniture store and I’m like that close to him pulling the trigger on us doing a joint project to do a façade renovation on the former bank building at the corner of Fourth and Lawrence,” said Hallam. His idea is to give a $3,000 façade renovation grant, $1,500 from CDRAB and $1,500 chipped in by the owner.

“While I see no others on the horizon or even an interest, if we were going to reduce that I’d say let’s leave it at $1,500 and that gives us a chance if he becomes warm and fuzzy about it suddenly I can jump on that.”

Smith said her board needs to be mindful of a budget that may not realize the projected revenue.

City Manager Tom Westbrook said CDRAB expects to receive a $75,000 contribution from the Walmart Corporation toward downtown enhancement as a condition to them starting construction of the Walmart Supercenter. He said as the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center nears construction he would expect the contribution to be made.