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What is a Business Improvement District (BID)?

In 1984, a new law gave Wisconsin municipalities the power to establish business improvement districts (BIDs) within their communities. At least one property owner within the proposed district needs to petition for it. The State Legislature created the Wisconsin Statutes (the “BID Law”) to provide a mechanism by which business properties within an established district could voluntarily assess themselves to pay for programs aimed at promoting, developing, redeveloping, managing and maintaining that district.

In many instances, BIDs are established in downtowns so property owners can jointly attract tenants and increase the value of their properties. BIDs use a variety of methods to determine assessments, but a majority of Wisconsin BIDs assess based on each parcel’s assessed value. According to the BID law, properties used exclusively for residential purposes may not be assessed.

Business improvement district assessments are quite similar to traditional special assessments wherein property owners are assessed for improvements or services that benefit them. Unlike the traditional special assessments, however, business improvement district assessments can be used to finance a wide range of activities, services, and improvements. Some BIDs in Wisconsin have funded physical improvements like street lighting or parking; others have funded business recruitment programs; others have promoted increased City services in the district such as security or snow removal; still others have produced promotional and marketing materials and events.

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