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DeKalb spends $46K to study possible TIFs

DeKALB – DeKalb aldermen voted unanimously to hire PGAV Architects at the cost of $46,000 to explore the feasibility of creating new tax increment financing districts along South Fourth Street and 2131-2211 Sycamore Road.

The two areas were previously identified in a preliminary report as being qualified for a special tax mechanism that local governments use to encourage development.

City Manager Mark Biernacki said he will have a better idea in a month in regards to the timeline for the TIF creation process.

A number of aldermen, including Tom Teresinski and Dave Baker of the 2nd and 6th Wards, respectively, spoke to the need of creating TIF districts in these areas.

“It’s been long-awaited,” Baker said.

Once the districts are created, the city should transfer money from the two current districts in order to jump start the others, Teresinski said. City officials are able to do this if the districts are adjacent.

TIF districts freeze property taxes at a base level for 23 years. As the property values increase, the difference between the base and the property taxes are captured in a special fund that can be used for economic and public improvements.

The city already has two districts, one located south of Lincoln Highway, stopping at Taylor Street. The other district encompasses areas between Sycamore Road and Lincoln Highway.

The lifespan of a district can be extended by another 12 years through action from the General Assembly. Once it expires, it is gone forever – including any money left in the accounts.

Nine other local governments would find their property tax revenue limited if the TIF districts were created. However, the decision to create these districts rests with the council alone. Biernacki said a number of public hearings will be held in the coming months.

Former DeKalb Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos said she supported creating the districts to give the area a much-needed boost, but she hoped the city remained transparent throughout the process. In past meetings, Chronopoulos has voiced concerns about the transparency of other public bodies.

Chronopoulos said she was hoping to see some sort of timeline on the creation of the TIF districts posted on the city’s website.

“How can we post information on how the project will develop over the next several months?” Chronopoulos asked. Biernacki replied that he will have a better idea on a timeline in a month or so.

In an interview after the meeting, Chronopoulos said she was concerned about access to the information.

“I was asking ... what exactly are they going to do to keep everybody informed in detail as the TIF project develops,” Chronopoulos said. “Because so many people are interested, they can’t always make the meetings. But they would like to be able to go on the website and see how it progresses.”

The council also considered creating TIF districts in the areas along West Lincoln Highway between the river and the western edge of the city, as well as Greek Row. Those areas’ qualifications were found to be weak, and as such, they will be not be studied by PGAV Architects.

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