DADE CITY — The country is in a financial meltdown, and cities across the nation are scrambling to find money to fund essential services.
In this environment, Dade City is funding projects like installing new streetlights downtown.
How? Dade City has the money for cosmetic projects downtown thanks to the Community Redevelopment Agency, or the CRA, which has a current balance of almost $741,000.
The money from the CRA can be used to improve the economic conditions within the area of Dade City that runs between Whitehouse and Howard avenues and from 10th Street to U.S. 98.
For example, the CRA is allowed to give a grant to a local business to fix a broken window within the community redevelopment area, but it is not allowed to give money to a local home owner for the same repair.
An additional swath of land that juts out of Howard Avenue may soon be added; the smaller area, between South Eighth and South Fourth, will be called CRA 2 and have its own funding from the tax base if its proposal is accepted by the commission.
Karen Traenkner, the director of the CRA, said grants for local, independent business owners to improve or repair the facades of their stores are more important than ever in today's financial climate. The CRA grants provide up to $7,500 to businesses within the community redevelopment area.
Dade City Commissioner Steve Van Gorden said the CRA is important because it provides residents results they can see. The proof is in the new benches and garbage cans that now sit in front of a number of shops and restaurants downtown.
Van Gorden said the highest priority project the CRA is working on right now is installing the new streetlights, which should be finished within 14 months.
While installing the streetlights will be an expensive project, Traenkner said the city has not yet received an estimate from TECO. However, once in place, TECO will be in charge of providing maintenance, repairs and insurance on the lights.
Funding for the CRA comes from tax increment financing, with the base tax year being 1998. So, for tax funds that exceed those from 1998, the CRA receives the difference. Tax revenue comes from both the county and the city.
While Traekner admits there might be a smaller balance next year because of a decrease in the city's tax revenue, she asserted there would be money for more CRA projects next year.