Salisbury: More City Tax Dollars and Less Transparency at Downtown Salisbury Inc.

Posted on April 11, 2017

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney transparency

♦ Salisbury City Council announced at its April 4, 2017 meeting that Downtown Salisbury, Inc.(DSI) and its interim director are looking at different ways to fill the position of director.  After discussions with their executive committee and full board, an idea was floated about converting that position from the private non-profit to a municipal under the structure of city government so that applicants would benefit from the NC Local Government Retirement System and health care. This move might increase the applicant pool significantly.

City Manager Lane Bailey made it clear the non-profit board would remain in place. They would appointment their own director and that it would not be a board like a city board. He told council that a “growing model” in North Carolina is for the staff to be under the umbrella of city government and would benefit from the status as a city employee.

Bailey requested permission to work out an agreement with the DSI board and said the position would be included in his recommended budget. A motion to make the DSI, Inc. director’s position a paid staff job with the city of Salisbury and move operations into a city owned space to provide administrative support for this position was approved.

David Post said he had some “kick-back” from the community over this, as well he should. Bailey announced that Parks and Recreation will take over some of the events DSI ran like “Friday Night’s Out” and that this sustainable partnership model would free up additional resources for marketing.

For those downtown merchants and property owners thinking their egregious Municipal Service District Tax might be suspended since the city is kind of absorbing DSI, I hate to disappoint you. Nope, you are still forced to pay it.

Here’s the rub. DSI maintains it is a private non-profit corporation and that it does not have to publically release its budget or respond to public records request under Chapter 132 of the NC General Statutes. It is simply none of our business. We have no idea how they spend their money. We just have to take liaison and BB&T Banker Brian Miller’s word on it.

Since DSI and the city are effectively merged and City Council unfortunately approved it, can we see their budget and expenditures? Will the City paid DSI director respond to public records requests? I bet that the board was left in place just to allow DSI to claim exemptions under Chapter 132 and keep how they spend our money a secret.

You have to remember that DSI is a private non-profit corporation, answerable to only their privately appointed Board of Directors wholly supported by MSD tax dollars and additional city appropriations that apparently are not under any obligation to tell us how they spend our money. Now with it’s director being a city employee it gets even worse.

City Council best reconvene on this issue and enact policy that DSI, in exchange for this financial support, voluntarily submit itself to the requirements on Chapter 132 and submit to public record’s request and publically post their budget each year. Otherwise, it’s just another day in the City of Smoke and Mirrors.

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