DeKALB – The creation of a proposed Central Business tax increment financing district, known as TIF 3, has been tabled by the DeKalb City Council until 2019, and a correlating intergovernmental agreement was subsequently voted down.
“[The city] wants collaboration, we want cooperation, we want what the [Joint Review Board] has indicated they want, and despite the fact that some may contend I was bribing folks, or as some would contend that one of our taxing bodies, namely the school district, is holding us hostage, I don’t agree with either of those,” Mayor Jerry Smith said in a fiery soap-box speech during Monday night’s meeting.
Smith was responding to recent and public opposition from affected taxing bodies, such as the DeKalb County Board, as well as DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato’s recent letter that was sent to all affected taxing bodies and passes harsh judgment on the city’s handling of TIF funds over the years. Additionally, the DeKalb School District 428 Board tabled its TIF talks relating to approving the IGA last week, citing Amato’s letter and suggestion for a forensic audit looking into the historical allocation of funds from the current TIF districts.
Smith read from a portion of Amato’s letter, which stated that the city had “utilized high pressure and extremely short drafting deadlines” and that the state’s attorney’s office was “not comfortable with this approach and the position it has placed everyone in.”
“I don’t want to go alone on this. We have an obligation to work with the other government entities,” said 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan, as he proposed tabling TIF talks until further discussion could be held with taxing bodies to figure out a way to work together. Fagan also emphasized that he is “all for TIF 3.”
In response to the taxing bodies’ opposition, city officials created an ordinance amendment adopting Chapter 37 of TIF regulations, which directly addresses concerns about funding allocation and records. Regulations include quarterly Joint Review Board meetings; the city would implement and maintain restrictions on the use of TIF expenditures to cover administrative responses – which Smith said has been “the crux” of questions from taxing bodies. The city would agree to not use TIF revenues for stand-alone infrastructure projects such as street resurfacing, water main or storm sewer replacements. For any redevelopment, the city would be required to prepare and publicly disclose analysis of return on investment; and any amendment to the Chapter 37 ordinance would require discussion with the Joint Review Board, as well as a two-thirds majority vote approving the amendments on both first and second reading.
The ordinance adopting Chapter 37 passed, 6-0, in the first reading, not including 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson who was absent.
“I like the passing of Chapter 37 because many of those things are what should have been done in the past,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Marquardt, who later said he “really [doesn’t] think the other taxing bodies want another TIF.”