Two consecutive Joint Review Board (JRB) meetings took place last week, one each for , to discuss whether the area’s various taxing bodies should back the proposed new TIFs.
Properly executed, a TIF is a tool that can resuscitate underdeveloped or blighted areas. TIF districts are often controversial, however, because they are notorious for drawing money away from other taxing bodies, such as local school districts and libraries.
That’s one of the reasons Business Manager John Gibson was quick to mention his desire to explore alternatives.
“A TIF is not the only option,” Gibson said.
has publicly stated it's neither against economic development nor TIFs, however, according to , a and Public Member representative on the 175th Street TIF.
“We desperately need economic development,” Anderson said. “What we ask for is more study before committing to a TIF … independently and objectively."
TIF consultant Robert Rychlicki said had looked into other options and the new TIF districts appear to be the most appropriate.
“The one advantage that TIF has … is that it is a way to provide upfront financing—cash,” Rychlicki said.
But a recent and lingering wound still remains unhealed, according to Debbie Kopas, the executive director and East Central Business District (ECBD) TIF JRB chairwoman.
The issue that continues to irk members of both JRBs involves $490,000 spent last December on a wetland restoration project at . According to Kopas, the JRB had met only five days earlier to discuss how surplus TIF money should be allocated. Despite a list of suggestions, none of which included the wetland restoration project, approved the wetland expenditure with little to no communication with the JRB.
Attorney Christopher Cummings responded to the concern, saying although the JRB was unaware of the intention to spend money on the wetland restoration, had brought the issue up during several meetings. Additionally, he reminded the JRB that this was not its decision to make.
“You’ve certainly expressed the JRB’s concerns about the timing but … that wasn’t something that just popped up on the agenda overnight,” Cummings said.
Kopas asked if any measures could be added to the TIF agreement to ensure that any non-direct business incentives be brought before a JRB prior to disbursement in hopes to protect surplus dollars.
Cummings said, legally, this is an impossibility.
But the response did not quell the concern for increased partnership among the village and other taxing bodies.
“You are asking for trust again,” Gibson said.
Mark Fazaini, the Public Member representative of the ECBD TIF JRB, questioned the legitimacy of the wetland restoration project concern.
“Everybody is losing trust of over one instance over 20 years of TIF management. I have a little bit of a tough time with that,” Fazzini said. “I understand the issue and I totally understand raising the issue, but it seems the amount of weight we’re giving that seems to be a little bit much compared to the frequency that this could have happened.”
While no official agreement could be codified, Anderson addressed the group in hopes of reinforcing the JRB’s desire for increased communication.
“I think there is the opportunity, here, exists to create a system where there are good economic development programs to the village with the proper checks and balances in place that don’t inhibit the job of the village to develop economically,” Anderson said. “I think everybody needs to keep their minds open on how we can establish an intergovernmental relationship that benefits the village … but at the same time, keeps the interest of the taxing districts near the top of the list as well.”
In the end, all the representatives of the ECBD TIF JRB, except and , voted in favor of recommending the new TIF districts. and were joined only by the Village of East Hazel Crest (which the 175th Street TIF extends into) in their “no” votes for the 175th Street TIF JRB. All other representatives voted "yes" with the exception of Anderson who’s “abstain” vote counted as a “yes.”
A public meeting will be convened to discuss the new TIFs during the regularly scheduled Nov. 8 village board meeting.