District 200 open to amending downtown TIF settlement

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The portion of property tax revenue allocated to Oak Park and River Forest High School and elementary school District 97 via development from the Colt-Westgate site could run into the millions.

That's according to the village of Oak Park as it looks to amend the 2011 downtown TIF settlement with the two school districts. Village Manager Cara Pavlicek discussed the details of the village's plan with the District 200 Board of Education on May 14. Speaking for about 20 minutes at the board's finance committee meeting, Pavlicek said the two school districts could net about $900,000 per year in property tax revenue once those newly-developed properties come back onto the tax rolls. She stressed, however, that those figures are preliminary.

The village has been working with Clark Street LLC on developing the site. The firm has proposed a roughly $70-million, mixed-use development for the 80,000-square-foot parcel located in downtown Oak Park. Pavlicek said that parcel will generate $1 million-plus annually in property tax revenue, based on the village's preliminary projections. The two school districts would get a portion of that revenue, she said.

According to D200 President John Phelan, the board would be open to amending the downtown TIF.

"I think it's a really positive development and I really appreciate the village's effort," Phelan said.

D97 is also open to discussing amending the agreement, according to a statement released last week by the district.

The village next month will begin accepting alternative requests for proposals for the Colt-Westgate site, Pavlicek said, which the village board expects to receive on June 17. The village would also at that time look for a decision from the school districts on reopening the TIF, Pavlicek added.

The village wants to amend that agreement to allow TIF dollars to be used to help develop the Colt-Westgate site. The downtown TIF is set to expire in 2018 with the two school districts receiving payments from the agreement until that time.

Pavlicek said developers would like to start building on the site next year, with plans to have the proposed commercial and residential properties by late 2015.

"So we take that as an indication that the market is really changing, and we have private developers who have money they do want to invest," she said. "And so we think it's important for us to give them a yes or no within that time frame. Otherwise we think those dollars would just be invested in other communities."

Pavlicek noted that full taxes from the site won't be collected until around 2017, after the site is developed.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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Posted: May 23rd, 2013 1:02 PM

TIGER Grant applicants are required to provide evidence that the expected benefits of the project justify the costs. Since public funds are being included, the village's TIGER Grant application is required to be available and accessible to public at time of submittal. (http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/TIGER%202013%20NOFA_BCA%20Guidance_0.pdf)


Posted: May 23rd, 2013 1:02 PM

TIGER Grant applicants are required to measure costs and benefits of a proposed project against a baseline. It is important that the applicant assume the continuation of reasonable and sound management practices in establishing a baseline. As per USDoT, assuming a baseline scenario in which the village does no street or infrastructure improvements is not realistic, and will lead to the overstatement of project benefits and affect the rating of the application.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 23rd, 2013 11:46 AM

No argument from me, John. Oak Park's TIFs have been mismanaged. Money wasted, expensive consultants hired, and service contracts awarded without an open and competitive bidding process. It's difficult to get read on the problems due to the Village board's continued efforts to keep the public out of the loop. That's why it is imperative for the local taxing bodies involved in these new negotiations to proceed cautiously. Get it in writing that the TIF books will be available for public inspection and that all revenues and expenditures are fully detailed on the Village website. We cannot simply rely on Village Hall adminstrators who offer rosey estimates without realistic ROI projections. The proposal requires careful study and should not be allowed to follow past practices that failed and stuck taxpayers with huge legal fees when the courts were forced to intervene to settle a dispute caused by the very people who are now asking for another bite of the apple.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 23rd, 2013 10:12 AM

JIM C - While there was TIF developments that enhanced OP, the overall results were dismal. The only valid test of TIF success or failure is the Return on Investment (ROI) for taxpayers. Plan 90 stated that economic development was needed to reduce taxes. That was the only reason stated in the plan. The only way to determine success or failure is a report on the ROI of the TIF's since Plan 90. As you stated, the village has refused to reveal how much was spent on Tifs and how much general fund revenue increased as a result of Tifs. The past is the past but we can learn from it. Starting with the Tiger and Clark projects, the expected ROI should be part of the project approval and an annual report of Return on Investment from developments published.

@just say yes  

Posted: May 23rd, 2013 6:07 AM

the high school is not the only taxing body in oak park. it is the one taxing body that passed a huge tax increase referendum in order to build reserve that were drained by low taxes held in tif districts balance sheets.

Downtown OP resident  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 7:27 PM

This is madness. There is zero evidence that development has lowered the tax burden and plenty of evidence to show that the projected revenues don't pan out. Ordinary taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. Well, no matter. As I've said before, I'm looking to leave. What a disappointment but I'll chalk it up to bad decision making on my part. Never again will I relocate across country to a village with such a fiscal history and reputation. What was I thinking?

paul from oak park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 5:00 PM

If you are Pro TIF please provide the facts and figures to show how giving millions of $ to private developers have lowered our taxes since the TIF's were formed. Other communities do not give money away and simply have developers use their Zoning Laws. Our community was recently listed as having one the highest debt loads in Cook County. TIFs are good? What?

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 2:20 PM

Oak Park's TIFs can and have produced benefits for the community but the lack of transparency regarding revenues and expenditures remains a serious concern. Our school districts previously requested access to those financial records and were told, "No!" by the trustees and village manager. The matter had to be resolved by a judge and taxpayers ended up footing all of the legal bills. That was unacceptable. Only if the Village board agrees to allow the taxing bodies and public to have open access and regular review of the TIF books should this proposal be approved.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 1:25 PM

And when the tax revenue realized from this development is far less than what Pavlicek estimates, who will be the one held accountable? Pavlicek? Phelan? Ray Johnson? Anan? We have numerous empty storefronts along Lake that I'm sure are much less expensive than what this development will have to charge for rents. This has got "taxpayer funded" written all over.

Sam Me  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 11:31 AM

There are countless numbers of TIF successes in and around Chicagoland. Oak Park has benefited from them and will in the futrure. Its just another vehicle in which Oak Park can approach responsible development. Dont believe the hype otherwise...

Samm- e  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 11:27 AM

TIF $$ work wonders. Dont believe what you see below. It is another vehicle of using tax dollars for responsible development. There are countless examples of TIF Successes in and around Chicagoland. Dont believe the hype.

paul from oak park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 7:54 AM

This will not reduce our taxes. This will enrich a developer at the expense of the public. Well run communities do not have TIF's and have no need for them. They simply create quality Zoning Laws that are applied fairly and equally with out any variances and let developers use their own money and live by OUR RULES. We are stuck in Development Muck because our PUD ordinance puts developers through the ringer so only those without money wait around to get the goodies being handed out by city hall

Just say yes  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 6:46 AM

Yeeeeees, Don forget the dist is sitting on $100+ Million of tax payers dollars.


Posted: May 22nd, 2013 5:18 AM

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! we have been down this road before. pope is gone, we don't need to listen to him anymore. tif = more taxeburden on taxpayers and more referendums from taxing bodies.

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