Applications to go out soon for New Bern MSD Advisory Committee seats

Middle Street in downtown New Bern, N.C.
Plans for an advisory committee to recommend projects in New Bern’s downtown Municipal Service District could be finalized by next month. (NBN Photo)

Plans for a new Municipal Service District Advisory Committee recommended by City of New Bern staff in February appear to be in the final stages. 

During the August 22 meeting of the New Bern Board of Aldermen, City Manager Foster Hughes explained the MSD Advisory Committee would be responsible for vetting and making recommendations on potential projects within the downtown Municipal Service District that would be funded with MSD tax revenue. Those recommendations would then be brought before the Board of Aldermen for consideration and final approval. 

Established in 1978, New Bern’s Municipal Service District encompasses most of the city’s downtown area, running from the north side of Broad Street to the west side of Hancock Street and to the edge of the Neuse and Trent rivers. The area is made up of approximately 30% residential and 70% commercial properties.

In addition to city and county property taxes, property owners within the MSD agreed to have an additional tax imposed on them that would go toward improvements in the area. New Bern’s current MSD tax rate is $0.1375 per $100 in value. While the MSD also encompasses nonprofit and government organizations, those entities do not contribute to the MSD tax. 

According to Hughes, the MSD tax brings in an average of $195,000 annually, with $1.6 million in MSD funds currently available for renovations and other projects downtown.

Hughes said applications will be sent to taxpayers within the MSD to give them a chance to apply for the advisory committee. He said the applications can be filled out online and resumes can be uploaded as well.

Hughes said he expected to present the Board of Aldermen with a slate of applications to consider for the MSD Advisory Committee seats as early as next month.

Under the proposed MSD Advisory Committee plan submitted to the Board of Aldermen Tuesday, the committee would consist of 10 voting member that would include six commercial members, four residential members and four non-voting ex officio members.

Commercial members

-Large commercial representative (Real property tax value of $2 million or more) 

-Hospitality representative (Hotel/bed and breakfast) 

-Restaurant representative 

-Retail establishment representative 

-Entertainment/nightlife representative 

-Professional services representative (Legal, banking, insurance, dental, etc.)

Commercial members may be individual property owners or representatives of owners if a commercial property is owned by a legal entity. 

Residential members

Each of the four residential representatives must maintain their primary residence in a residential dwelling located within the Municipal Service District. 

Ex Officio Members

Ward 1 Aldermen, City Manager, Finance Director, Swiss Bear Executive Director 

Under the initial plan presented to the board Tuesday night, no limits would have been placed on the number of successive terms a member could serve. After concerns raised by Alderman Hazel Royal, the board instructed City Attorney Scott Davis to amend the resolution to stipulate that after serving two terms a member would be required to step down for a term before running again for the same seat. The member would still be able to run for a different MSD Advisory Committee seat during that time, however. 

Davis said he would make the changes to the resolution and present it to the board for approval at their September 12 meeting.

“I feel in the interest of all people that are part of the MSD footprint at least they should be provided the opportunity to be a part of the MSD,” Royal said. “If we have no limits on successive terms then we could end up in places where we’ve seen in the past that one or two or three people might just end up serving on the MSD for the next 12 years.”

Under the proposed plan, any vacancies on the committee would be filled by the Board of Aldermen. The board would also have the authority to replace any voting member who fails to attend three of the four planned quarterly meetings within any 12 month period. 

The city held public input meetings on May 25 and June 15 at City Hall to discuss potential interest in reviving the MSD committee, the structure of the committee, and potential projects. All MSD taxpayers were sent letters and were invited to attend the meeting, which drew a total of 62 participants, according to Hughes. 

May 25 meeting:

June 15 meeting:

 By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.