The latest happy news out of City Hall is word of a workshop to be hosted by the city of Winona this Thursday, April 12, to explore the possibility of creating something called Special Service Districts for downtown Winona. We are told that if enough business and property owners are sold on the idea, a section or sections of downtown Winona could become such districts, thereby acquiring the privilege of being assessed extra taxes on a yearly basis which the city would then spend on their behalf. Property owners will undoubtedly line up for blocks outside of City Hall next Thursday, avidly awaiting information on how they might qualify to pay a new tax.
Irony aside, I do not know of any downtown property owners who, looking at their rapidly increasing property tax bills, do not feel that there ought to be plenty of money to spend on their behalf under the present circumstances. The city, having taxed and spent an enormous fortune under the false pretense of creating an industrial park, which then turned into a gigantic retail development, has not helped to generate any tenants for downtown buildings. Thus many sit empty, generating no funds to be expended on their upkeep nor anything else, much less more property taxes.
Money spent on improvement and rehab of the downtown will mostly need to go to repair and restore its fine old historic buildings, many of which sit empty. The money will necessarily be spent most wisely by the property owners, rather than someone sitting in the endowed chair in city government which the new tax would create, and little more. The process could be streamlined and facilitated by granting property tax relief to individuals willing to invest in their buildings under some sort of broad, widely agreed upon guidelines.
Let the funds go from the pocket of the individual owners directly to the building projects, to maximum effect, rather than taking the very costly detour through City Hall.