About $500,000 earmarked to assist small businesses along the Madison Avenue business district have gone unused.

Close to $430,000 in funds from the Small Business Increment Fund (SPIF) have gone unused. The funds are derived from the Madison Avenue TIF, (Tax Increment Fund) a tax generating vehicle that sets aside commercial and some residential taxes over a period of time in increments for a community’s economic development.

The Madison-Austin TIF has generated about $3 million since 1999, with $750,000 set aside to assist small area businesses. Businesses can use the funds to make construction renovations to improve their work sites.

Only five businesses have taken advantage of the program, with three others establishments pending.

“Nobody is taking advantage of these funds at this time,” said John Paulun, director of Somercor503. Inc., the agency that screens potential applicants.

The SBIF program works like a rebate program. Business owners pay initial cost for renovations, then are reimbursed between 25 to 75 percent of the cost up to a maximum of $50,000. Applicants can use the funds for both internal and external renovations such as roofing, flooring and tuckpointing.

Paulun said the west Austin area is overdue for a community meeting to inform business owners about the program, but said the responsibility to market SBIF to

potential applicants falls in the hands of the city’s Department of Planning. Department of Planning Spokeswoman Connie Buscemi disagreed with the number of applicants. She said the current number of applicants was more like ten with ten other potential applicants pending.

If the funds aren’t used, the city could potentially allocate the money for other use, Paulun added.