The Odessa Development Corporation moved Thursday to free up greater funds for programs that promote the city, including one of two public incentive programs aimed at spurring downtown development that city leaders recently overhauled.
The ODC oversees a sales-tax fund intended for economic development. And state law allows such organizations to devote up to 10 percent of their revenue, which includes other sources such as bonds, on promoting the city. Traditionally, much of that money in Odessa’s case went toward marketing expenses through an advertising agency. Odessa has never come close to reaching the 10 percent cap.
But city leaders increased their promotional expenses in recent years through a grant program for downtown property owners who spruce up their facades and more recently, through a competition for entrepreneurs starting new businesses.
The Thursday vote by the ODC, which must be ratified by the Odessa City Council in order to take effect, would set aside 10 percent of the organization’s revenue for promotional purposes after consistently budgeting less than that for years. For the fiscal year underway, that would amount to about $867,000.
The change would enable city officials to spend more money on promotions because of another provision of state law governing how officials can use unspent promotional money. If money is designated for that purpose but not used, state law lets economic development organizations roll the funds over to later fiscal years and spend it without cracking the 10 percent cap. But because the ODC for years has not set aside the maximum amount, only unused funds budgeted for specific projects have rolled over.
ODC President Betsy Triplett-Hurt said greater spending on aesthetic improvements or marketing that makes Odessa more attractive to residents and businesses would be worthwhile.
“It’s better than sitting there in some coffer and not getting anything for it,” Triplett-Hurt said.
Interim Assistant City Manager Cindy Muncy said the timing of the change is important as city budget writers prepare for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
If the City Council signs off, the ODC might amend its budget for the current fiscal year to set aside the maximum amount of money for promotional money. That means the city could have about a balance of nearly $600,000 for the coming fiscal year.