The town I live in has faced an onslaught of scandals, controversy and disappointment over the last few weeks.
Some of these include:
- The approval of another liquor store in the center of town
- A Civil War Memorial proposal
- The approval of a tax credit community from the Board of Zoning and Appeals
- The sudden closure of two businesses – a restaurant and a coffee shop
- One Council member’s violations, fines and lawsuits
- And of course the arraignment of Taneytown Police Chief William Tyler by the U.S. Attorney’s Office
I hope to address each of these topics in future posts, but today I wanted to focus on the recent closure of two small businesses. More specifically, I want to focus on the Economic Development Department of the City of Taneytown and provide information on what measures are being taken to promote and support businesses in town. Although it is not the town’s responsibility to help run a business, it is a city’s duty to use tax payer money wisely.
As stated on the City of Taneytown’s website, the Economic Development Department’s mission statement is
In less than four years, twenty (20) small businesses have closed their doors in Taneytown. There are plenty of opinions, rumors and accusations as to why each business owner decided to close, but I feel we need to dig deeper. What we need is a complete overhaul of the Economic Development Department (consisting of one employee) and demand accountability in how city money is used.
As a previous business owner, I asked the Economic Development Department many times for consistent and cohesive marketing, promotion, and training for Main Street businesses. I was given the answer “we have limited resources”, lending to the assumption there is little or no money in the budget for marketing, manpower or promotion.
According to the City of Taneytown’s Operating Budget for the Fiscal Years 2016-2019, there are several line items that could be used to restructure marketing campaigns, provide training to business owners, and positively influence public behavior.
The following is a summary of the Economic Development budget for Fiscal Years 2016-2019:
|Compensation (Salary & Payroll Expenses)||$316,285|
|EDC Main Street Program||$35,000|
|Baltimore Street Marketing Initiative||$10,000|
|Materials & Supplies||$4,000|
|Consulting & Engineering||$3,000|
|Dues & Subscriptions||$2,200|
|Professional – Other||$2,052|
In addition to this amount, there is an EDC Grant (GL Code 4369) of $18,178 in FY 2017 (GF page 9 of 21).
The above summary does not include funds received through the Main Street Program. Unfortunately, I am unable to share any information on the financials from my time served on the Main Street Advisory Board. During the time I served, I was told by the Chair and Main Street Director that all information on the financial statements were confidential and were to be shredded after each meeting.
So where was this money spent? How was it used?
The Economic Director is not required and has not made any effort to report to the public with details of how this money was spent or the results from citizen’s hard earned contributions. After all, this is citizen’s money and the City Department Heads are merely stewards of the money.
What do you think needs to change in order to create a stable business environment in a small town like Taneytown?
Do you think the city is fiscally responsible?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts – be sure to share them with your local leaders as well.