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DeKalb residents give opinions on 2 potential TIF districts

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Mike Ritz, owner of Ritz’s Southtown Auto, tests a solenoid on a vehicle in his shop on South Fourth Street in DeKalb. The city of DeKalb is considering establishing a tax increment financing district along South Fourth Street to spur economic development in the area. Ritz may seek TIF money to improve the cosmetics of his building and a new sign.

DeKALB – DeKalb City Council members have until Nov. 8 to introduce an ordinance establishing two new tax increment financing districts after community members expressed concerns at a public hearing Monday.

Council members held no discussion of the proposed districts Monday, and two residents suggested waiting until a permanent city manager is seated before considering the TIF districts.

The proposed new district on South Fourth Street would encompass property on either side of the street from Taylor Avenue to Fairlane Avenue, while the other would include the former Nelson Veterinarian property at 2131 Sycamore Road and the Northern Illinois University Art Annex at 2211 Sycamore Road.

DeKalb already has two TIF districts. These special taxing mechanisms spur development in blighted areas. The property taxes that local taxing bodies – such as schools, park districts and city government – receive from properties in these districts are frozen for 23 years. As property values increase in the area, the increased property taxes are diverted to a special account and used for improvements.

Lynn Fazekas, who lives near the proposed southside district, said she supports the needs of the school district and thinks the proposed districts would be a distraction for the city’s finances as indicated in a reported filed by Executive Partners Inc.

“I’m not against TIFs, I’m against these TIFs,” Fazekas said. “... The EPI report is a blueprint for the operational improvements that we need. The proposed TIFs are not part of that blueprint, and would be distractions from the work of figuring out how to provide basic services a few years from now.”

Before the council heard from the public, Mike Weber, director of PGAV Planners, gave a brief summary of the purpose of the proposed districts.

“They’re designed to provide a financial incentive tool to induce private investment in property improvements and redevelopment,” Weber said. “It’s also to provide a mechanism to help finance some public improvements in each area to the extent TIF monies are generated in those, and it’s ultimately the goal of both plans to reduce the decline in property values in both areas, and to create a stronger tax base.”

Prior to Monday’s hearing, DeKalb School District 428 voted unanimously to support the Sycamore Road TIF district but not the South Fourth Street district. Kerry Mellott, a member of the board’s Finance Facilities Advisory Committee, echoed concerns over the southside district.

“I don’t think I’ve met anyone yet that wouldn’t agree that something needs to be done on South Fourth Street,” Mellott said. “But as [interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu] presented to us the financial specifics of the South Fourth Street TIF ... include a very large shortfall in that TIF increment that will be gathered in over the years and that revenue stream.”

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