Funding cut by 64 percent to Downtown Partnership in proposed budget

The St. Joseph City Council is moving forward with a plan that would cut the city's funding to the Downtown Partnership by 64 percent.

Posted: May 14, 2019 5:54 PM
Updated: May 14, 2019 6:18 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph City Council is moving forward with a plan that would cut the city's funding to the Downtown Partnership by 64 percent.

The proposal coming from councilman Brian Myers last week. The move would reduce the current funding of $28,000 to only $10,000 next year to the partnership.

"We looked at the different groups that were going to be asking for funds from the gaming commission funds for this next year and we had to pare people back,” Myers said.

The gaming commission funds are provided by revenue from the St. Jo Frontier Casino.

Rhabecca Boerkircher, the executive director of the Downtown Partnership, says the proposed cut will lead to very little extra money.

"It’s going to be a very tight budget," she said. "There will be no extra money for anything extra."

The partnership is designed to be the agency that facilitates many downtown organizations aimed at promoting and growing St. Joseph's downtown. It is funded by seven agencies, including the city, Buchanan County, Mosaic Life Care, Downtown First, Downtown Association, and the St. Joseph Community Improvement District. The city was the largest contributor, Boerkircher said.

She says that while the cuts are deep, she does not expect any major changes in events that are held downtown or with the city's progress.

"Things are just going too well," Boerkircher said. "We’ve got new businesses coming in, we’ve got a lot of new investment downtown so I anticipate that we will continue to do well.”

The growth of the downtown area is noticed by Myers as well but says that the funds provided to the partnership should go towards more than just the executive director's salary and office space.

“If the executive director is not doing anything to attract businesses downtown or to promote or market the downtown then essentially we are using public funds to pay someone’s office rent and pay their salary and benefits," Myers said. "And that is counterproductive to what we should be doing with public money.”

Moving forward, both the city and partnership are working on a solution.

“We are working on a consolidation effort and there is a possibility after six months they may consider giving us additional funding,” Boerkircher said.

“Let’s see how this group can reconfigure," Myers said. "If it’s able to unite everyone then we can look at the end of the year and possibly invest more into it.”

Myers believes having a stronger downtown is not far away.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth, a lot of positive activity and I think we are on the verge of turning a corner in this part of the community,” he said.

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