Re:New Report

Perhaps you listened to the part of the WLBK mayoral candidates’ forum last month when I challenged the notion that installation of the synthetic skating rink had translated into more downtown shopping dollars (an argument for its purchase)–in which case you then heard in response the sound of our then-acting-mayor waving a sheet of paper he purported was proof.

I’m pretty sure Mayor-elect Povlsen was flapping this, a piece of the Re:New DeKalb Spring 2009 Report. I can’t swear to it, because he didn’t respond to a request to provide the information. At any rate, the aforementioned document deserves a close look, seeing as we taxpayers have spent $5.5 million on the downtown over the past four years (see p. 21).

The report does show steady growth in downtown sales, downtown sales tax collected, and the downtown’s percentage of citywide sales from 2005 to the end of 2008, but do the data indicate the skating rink–or any other single improvement–brought more shoppers downtown?

Answer: You can’t tell from what is given.

(Adapted from p. 27)

Downtown* Sales (estimated)
2005: $50,221,841
2006: $53,182,060
2007: $57,148,861
2008: $58,402,540

Downtown* Sales Tax
2005: $772,897
2006: $826,977
2007: $915,892
2008: $971,537

Downtown* Sales as a % of Citywide Sales
2005: 9.31%
2006: 9.14%
2007: 9.62%
2008: 9.93%

The upward trend over the past four years is certainly something to celebrate; however, additional numbers would assist in better understanding the extent of the accomplishment. For example:

  • What were the data for the years 2001-2004 & how does the current trend differ from the previous years?
  • What portions of improved downtown sales tax numbers are attributable to sales tax rate increases?
  • How much of the latest downtown sales increases were the result of transfer sales from outside the downtown (e.g., arising from the closing of Detox)?
  • If you have other questions that would lead to a clearer picture of the return on investment so far, let me have ’em in the comments, please.

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    *Report calls the downtown the “central business district.”