The River Forest school board formally contacted the River Forest village board Wednesday, seeking to clarify issues related to the soon-to-expire tax increment financing district. The two-page letter from District 90 School Board President Julie Geldner came in the wake of several recent public comments by elected officials and amid rumors about possible use of tax increment financing money for Lincoln School.
In the letter, sent to all village board members, Geldner noted the school district’s interest in receiving a share of the TIF money, expressed her concern over certain rumors circulating in the village, and generally sought to “clarify the board’s position with respect to the TIF funds.”
The village has about a $6 million surplus in the property tax portion of its TIF. Trustees are planning to spend $600,000 to $700,000 of the TIF surplus on security improvements at River Forest Town Center and at village hall, as well as on physical upgrades to village hall.
In village board meetings, several trustees, including Steve Hoke and Steve Dudek, have pushed to have TIF money allocated to the schools and to the park district through formal intergovernmental agreements, referred to as IGA. The village and park district met in joint session last month and are currently working on an IGA that will give the park district about $600,000.
That would leave, unofficially, about $4.7 million, which must either be allocated to TIF-eligible projects, or returned after Dec. 31, on a pro-rated basis to local and county taxing bodies.
Geldner acknowledged that the school board has had internal discussions about possible TIF disbursements to the district, but said flatly that rumors that the school board is not interested in TIF money “are not true.” The school district, she said, is “currently in the process of reviewing its position vis-à-vis the TIF,” and will make “a formal and timely request”for its share of the TIF money.
Underscoring the school board’s interest, Geldner wrote, “On our end, we have been waiting for a nod from the village board to begin formal conversations about how we can best utilize these funds on behalf of our community’s children and families.”
Geldner also said the school board has made no determination of how it might specifically use any TIF money. While acknowledging that as part of its ongoing assessment process the district has identified “several potential projects and programs we believe are important,” the school board has made no decisions regarding those issues.
“The school board has made no plans, formal or informal, for spending any potential TIF funds,” she said.
“Should the (school) board receive a portion of the TIF fund, the board will consider all potential uses in an open and public manner,” Geldner said in conclusion. “Only then will the board decide how and when the funds can best be used to further the board’s goal of providing River Forest children with the best possible education.”
For more on this story, see the Oct. 14 issue of Wednesday Journal and check updates at www.WednesdayJournalOnline.com.