DANIEL CONNER, a lifelong Germantown resident who owns a rental property in the neighborhood, doesn't think it's fair that he soon may have to pay an added tax for trash cleanup and other services.
Conner made his opinion clear at a meeting Thursday night, at which the steering committee tasked with restoring the now-defunct Germantown Special Services District presented its proposed plan and budget for the reinvigorated district. The budget includes an additional tax assessment on more than 200 area businesses.
"How many property owners are aware of the consequences of paying an additional 12 percent [of existing property taxes]?" he heatedly asked the group of a few dozen gathered at the Pegasus Room, on Pulaski Avenue near Chelten in the heart of Germantown. "You really think that's fair?"
The assessment, committee members say, was determined based on a five-year plan with a proposed annual budget of $178,176, and would apply to 232 businesses within the designated Special Services District area, centered on parts of the Germantown and Chelten Avenue corridors.
The money would go to salaries for a district manager to oversee the SSD, three ambassadors (two part time and one full time) and a variety of services identified as needed improvements by property owners in surveys conducted by the committee. Sidewalk cleaning and anti-litter programs top the list, along with beautifying the corridors, public-safety improvements and better coordination with city agencies.
The plan will be made final the first week of March, then mailed to property owners affected by the assessment. In late April, a public hearing will be held on the finalized five-year plan for the SSD, followed by a 45-day objection period before it will go to City Council for approval. Committee members said they hope to have the SSD reapproved by June and up and running by July.
"What we're trying to do is improve the neighborhood. That's the bottom line," Marcus Heppinstall, a Germantown resident and member of the committee, told the attendees. "I need you guys to help us out."
Robert Wheeler, a committee member who owns Wired Beans Café on Chelten Avenue, said business owners concerned about not getting bang for their buck on the additional assessment they'll be paying for the SSD should look at the improvements in other areas that have improvement districts, including Roxborough, Mount Airy and the Aramingo Avenue corridor.
"We need to keep the Germantown dollar in Germantown," Wheeler said. "We need good businesses here to keep the shopping here, the money here."