The city of LeClaire is exploring the idea of creating a new taxing district as a means of raising more money for improvements in its growing shopping and entertainment district. 

City Administrator Ed Choate said city leaders are in the "infancy stages" of discussing a Self-Supporting Municipal District, or SSMID. 

Under a SSMID, property owners within a district's boundaries agree to pay a new levy based on their assessed valuation to help fund improvements in the district. 

"It's self created," he said, adding "That means the group, whoever that ends up being, creates the district with some or all the property owners being willing participants." 

The same group then would decide how to spend the new funding. "It could be for whatever they dream up — banners, sidewalks — who knows what the end result would be from it," he said.  

The economic development tool, first launched in Iowa in 1977, has been used across the state and the Quad-Cities to create self-sustaining funding sources to cover costs of projects and improvements. Choate said LeClaire last looked into it a decade ago. 

Earlier this summer, nearby Bettendorf created a new SSMID to make improvements in its downtown. It will be managed by the newly formed Downtown Bettendorf Organization.

In order to create a SSMID, at least 25 percent of the property owners must agree and represent at least 25 percent of the proposed district's assessed value.

LeClaire Mayor Ray Allen said the SSMID could also be a way of uniting the different organizations that already exist in downtown, including a Marketing Alliance, LeClaire Chamber and the Tourism Board. "This will give them some money that they can decide how to spend and not go to the city for everything."

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Although the tourism group receives some of the city's hotel/motel tax revenues as well as about $100,000 annually from the city, Allen said "That doesn't do everything they need." 

He added that the city's next step is to begin discussing the concept with businesses and downtown property owners. 

"The city would be a catalyst for it, we're not pushing it," he stressed. "It's more (like) let's have a discussion of this concept and see how people feel about it. We want to make sure they get good information. We talk about the uses, the goals and see if we can build some consensus that it is the right thing to do. And it might not be the right thing." 

Allen and Choate said part of the impetus for discussing a SSMID now is the city's plans for on a second phase of its streetscaping and creation of a Marina District. 

"Phase II creates a bunch of opportunities or challenges and the city is still going to be a major player in what happens there," Allen said. 

But a new funding source could boost the downtown's advertising budget or pay for other infrastructure improvements. He said the SSMID would not be responsible for regular maintenance issues, such as necessary road improvements or sidewalk repairs. "I don't view this as being a maintenance and repair program. It's more as 'what can we do differently that helps us be successful?'"  

The SSMID also could serve a "steering mechanism" for all the different downtown interests. "All those three (organizations) do different things, but they're all related and you've got the potential for all three to be going in a different direction. It's not a coordinated situation as I look at it," Allen said. "But it will be up to them to ultimately decide." 

Allen said currently not all downtown businesses belong to the chamber or contribute to the marketing alliance, which advertises on behalf of the historic downtown. With a SSMID, "We would have the benefit of making sure everybody is contributing." 

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