By Dan McLeister for The Independent
In speaking against approval of the N. York Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, several citizens stated that market conditions are worse than the first three TIF Districts which City officials used as examples of what could happen with a fourth one.
Stephen Hipskind (4th Ward), chairman of the Finance Committee of City Council, said that property values had tripled or almost tripled in the first three TIF Districts.
Terry Pastika, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC), went beyond market conditions and accused City officials of “turning a good process into a corrupt process and creating a problematic situation. This process looks like gerrymandering properties so Hahn St. properties south of North Ave. can be brought into the N. York TIF Districts of properties along York St. north of North Ave. to Grand Ave. The City is privatizing profit and socializing costs,” the lawyer said in her contention that all property owners in Elmhurst will end up paying for the N. York TIF District.
At the August 6th public hearing, the CAC director also noted that the decision in July by the Joint Review Board of various local taxing bodies “was not an overwhelming endorsement” since representatives from School District 205 and the Elmhurst Park District did not vote for approval. “The Park District and the School District feel like their backs are against the wall and they felt cut out of earlier discussions about the N. York TIF. Now there have been closed door meetings to determine what the payout might be”
(Incremental property tax increases from improvements in a TIF District are kept in a special City fund for up to twenty three years before being released to other local taxing bodies like the School District, which get more than half of the property taxes, and the Park District. Some property tax money was released early in the first TIF District along York St. south of North Ave.)
(District 205 School Board President Jim Collins was in the audience at the August 6th public hearing, but he did not speak during the public comment period.)
In addition to saying that market conditions are different now than during the time the first three TIF Districts were started, resident Tamara Brenner contended that the City “was moving fast” with the N. York TIF District. After City officials mentioned the possibility of a final action vote in two weeks, she noted that the TIF District Act from the state allows up to ninety days for local governments to make a decision.
Also, Brenner said she would like to know about the information behind the assumptions by the consultant to the City that property taxes could grow to $105 million to $150 million in twenty three years. Neither a representative from Kane McKenna nor any City officials gave details about the assumptions.
Finally, Brenner wanted to know how much discussion there had been in City meetings about alternative methods of financing such as a special sales tax district to finance improvements, instead of a TIF District.
Another resident, Craig Nelson, also urged the City to “slow down” and pay off bonds for the first three TIF Districts. “Currently the commercial real estate market is in disarray.”
Mentioning a specific situation, an attorney for the owners of Hamburger Heaven on the southeast corner of North Ave. and York St. noted that his client was concerned about the possible elimination of his business. John Skoubis noted “Hamburger Heaven has been an icon for decades in Elmhurst.”
(It is not clear what would happen to Hamburger Heaven if properties on York St., south of North Ave. including nearby Hahn St. land parcels were voted by the City Council to be included in the N. York TIF District.
The owner of Wendy’s restaurant on the north side of the proposed District, stated that he was against the project because taxes are already too high.
An overall statement was made by resident Claude Pagash. “If the District does not work out, then the public will be stuck paying any City obligations. I don’t’ like the idea of residents being on the hook.”