Since the city’s economic development tool - the Tax Increment Finance district - is for blighted areas, I drove west on State Street from Mulford to Alpine, pulling into parking lots, writing down the names of businesses in the proposed TIF area to observe, as reported in the Rockford Register Star article, if good things are really happening in this area without any new TIF funding.
The TIF district actually begins just east of Mulford and includes Chase Bank and Rasmussen College, and the Shogun restraurant, across from one of the busiest malls in town, Forest Plaza and their associated businesses.
I then ventured to the Marketplace of Rockford Shopping Center, just west of Mulford on the North side of East State Street and discovered the newly opened Valli Produce, Oscars Pub, Old Time Pottery, Mobile, Culvers and Walgreens.
On the south side of East State Street is Big K-Mart, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silvers, Dos Reales, Red Lobster, Lino’s, Anderson and the Bachrodt’s auto dealers, Northwest bank and Enterprise Rental with Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, two antique Malls, Advanced Auto Parts and Newton Plaza.
Crossing back on the North side of East State is OSF Hospital, Rockford Gastroenterology Center, Rockford Orthopedic, Rockford Cardiology, the Surgical Medical Building, OSF Speciality Clinic, OSF Medical Group, Davita Dialysis Nephrology Associates, and the OSF Center for Health and a Pain Center – all included in the TIF area.
Further west on East State Street is Office Depot, Auto Glass, Aldi’s Grocery, Panino’s, Road Ranger, Versailles Place, Sherwin Williams Paint and of course, Rockford College with associated businesses, the YWCA, Primary Eye Care, College Center Office Park, Travel Inn, Sweden House, Manhattan Plaza, Forest City Motors, Happy Wok, Luigi’s Pizza, a McDonald’s, Ethan Allen, PNC Bank, Goodwill and CVS drugs.
If East State Street between Alpine and Mulford is now to be considered a “blighted area,” then all of Rockford is blighted. Sure, there are some buildings in need of repair and overdue maintenance on parking lots with weeds growing through the cracks but that’s due to the recession, not blight.
This new TIF district will simply be taking potential tax increases from other taxing bodies – that would be there, but for the TIF - when the economic recovery occurs, which would increase the burden on the taxpayers for the next 23 years!
The JRB meeting may not have even met the minimum requirements of the Open Meetings Act, which requires a quorum to be present to enact any business of a “Public Body” as the defined in 5 ILCS 120/Section 1.02 of the Act, such as dealing with decisions affecting public monies.
The public hearing scheduled for August 20, 2012 on the TIF should be rescheduled to allow the public, at a minimum, to be represented by our taxing bodies at a new JRB meeting.
The taxing districts would have a second chance to attend the JRB meeting representing their districts, their constiuents and their elected representatives, who will have the final input into resubmitted plans or amendments referenced in the law, such as sharing the tax increment with the taxing district’s, through agreements between all parties present.
A 60% vote of our alderman should be the minimum to approve a TIF that will remove any increase in assessed value in such a prime location, for whatever reason, from the taxrolls for a minimum of 23 years.
The burden of the TIF mechanism falls squarely on the taxpayers to make up any difference in their respective taxing districts, including the City’s General Fund, which supports failing TIFs that do not have a positive increment to repay their TIF loans!
One last question comes to mind. Knowing what a TIF is supposed to do – improve the tax base, after using the tax increment – the risk being taken with tax dollars provided by the district taxpayers to improve the property’s value.
The question is – How many times since TIFs were intorduced in Rockford has a TIF property returned to the taxrolls with increased evaluations of such significance to decrease the property taxes of existing taxpayers? When has it ever happened?