Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb says village hall is putting the brakes on the distribution of funds in the Madison Street Tax Increment Finance District to other local taxing bodies.
Abu-Taleb said in a Feb. 8 letter to John Phelan, president of the District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School board, that “additional time is needed in the coming months to review and evaluate the best community-wide strategy for the Madison TIF to ensure that property tax values on Madison Street grow at a rate which will ensure that each governing body has a sustainable tax base to support essential public services in the future.”
One reason for the delay is to continue multi-party discussions regarding using TIF funds for a possible new Madison Street headquarters for the District 97 elementary schools.
Abu-Taleb said in the letter that severe winter weather has caused the cancellation of two village board meetings, and work on reorganizing the village’s economic development strategy has delayed the village board in its work on where to use the TIF dollars.
Phelan said in a telephone interview that he “wasn’t terribly surprised” by the decision to take more time on the TIF distribution. Rather than pitting the school board against the village, Phelan said it makes sense to take a long-term view on the matter and that the decision to wait is prudent.
“I think citizens who elect all of us want us to work together for their good and not just to defend one particular governing entity,” Phelan said. “Personally, I support any efforts between taxing bodies to have discussions about how to cooperate for the best interest of all our citizens. If it takes time to have those discussions, then I think that makes sense.”
Phelan said he aims to find the “proper balance in the communities between long-term investment and our short-term needs for obtaining services and educating our children.”
The village settled long-term litigation between D200 and District 97 elementary schools in 2011, which resulted in surplus distributions to the schools and other taxing bodies from the Downtown Oak Park TIF. Phelan said it makes sense to see what effect that decision had on the community as a whole.
He said the fact that the village is reaching out to the district to discuss the temporary withholding of TIF dollars “is the kind of good faith you want to hear from elected officials.”
The motivating factor in the decision is to prevent burdensome taxes on Oak Park residents while governing bodies fight over money, Abu-Taleb said in a telephone interview.
“We do not want to deplete (TIF) resources we have today,” said Abu-Taleb. “We would love D97, if they relocate, to stay on Madison Street.”