Neighborhoods will now have an easier time collecting signatures for their community improvement district (CID) petitions.
The city of Jackson has permitted neighborhoods to collect e-signatures on the petitions for the special taxing districts.
The news comes as the Greater Belhaven Foundation’s (GBF) efforts to collect signatures stalled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
GBF Executive Director Casey Creasey is pleased with the news.
“The city allowing us to get electronic signatures is really going to help us cross the finish line in the petition process,” she said. “This will help tremendously.”
Belhaven needs to collect 1,050 signatures before it can submit its CID petition to the city. At press time, the group was about 80 signatures short of that number.
Creasey didn’t know how long it would take to get the remaining signatures. “We are still contacting, sending emails and following up with people,” she said. “It’s hard to tell.”
E-signature programs, such as DocuSign, would allow individuals to sign petitions via their computers or mobile devices. For those using computers, individuals can choose a pre-drawn signature of their names generated by the software. Individuals can sign document using their finger or a stylus via their mobile device’s touch screen.
The foundation asked the city whether using such software would be allowed in light of the pandemic.
Previously, volunteers had been going door-to-door to drum up support. They also had hosted several events where residents could sign. However, those in-person events stopped when COVID broke out.
The municipal clerk and legal department looked into the matter and sought an attorney general’s opinion to find out whether the electronic John Hancocks would be accepted.
“After thorough research and attorney general’s opinion, it would be permissible,” Municipal Clerk Angela Harris told Creasey in an e-mail.
CIDs are special taxing districts where property owners pay an additional assessment along with their annual property taxes, which is then set aside to fund public improvements, such as beautification and signage, within the district.
State lawmakers approved legislation to allow Jackson to have the districts during the 2019 session. Belhaven began working to form the city’s first CID last fall.
To form the district, groups must submit a petition to the city with at least 60 percent of home and property owners signing on in support.
From there, the petition is submitted to the city, signatures are verified and a special election is set. Sixty percent of all residents living in the district must vote in favor of the district for one to be established. Applicants also must submit details on how much they hope to raise and how the CID money would be spent.
According to GBF’s first-year draft budget, the CID would generate approximately $206,729 a year. Of that, 55 percent would go toward public safety and security; 20 percent would go toward master planning; 10 percent would go to pay for capital improvements; the remaining 15 percent would cover management and auditing costs.