Editorial: Sugar Grove needs to rethink its TIF District proposal

By on August 12, 2011

For the past month or so, various taxing bodies from the area have been considering the implications of a proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District in Sugar Grove.

A TIF District is designed to spur economic development by drawing a boundary, and the additional tax revenue generated from within the boundary remains inside that boundary, earmarked to help continue the economic boundary.

So while it may be good for the village of Sugar Grove to build momentum for economic development, the flip side to that coin is that other taxing bodies—which also rely on the tax revenue from economic development within various village boundaries—would be frozen out of receiving any benefits from the development for a period of time. In the case of the TIF District currently proposed by Sugar Grove, that would be for 23 years.

This means that taxing bodies like the Kaneland School District, Sugar Grove Fire Protection District and others would receive no benefit from development within the TIF boundary for the life of the district, which in this case is proposed to be 23 years. In addition, the size of the currently proposed TIF District is massive, comprising approximately 1,800 acres.

It is not surprising that during various meetings over the past month, multiple representatives from multiple taxing bodies that would be impacted—the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District, Sugar Grove Township, Kaneland School District—have expressed their concerns with either the size of the district or the length of time.

According to Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler, who discussed the issue at the School Board meeting on Monday, the opposition to the scale and scope of the TIF District also includes the Kane County Board and approximately 20 percent of the properties in the Hinckley-Big Rock School District.

He said the district intends to speak out against the proposal at the Sugar Grove Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and suggested that both district staff and School Board members also attend the meeting.

We support the district’s position, which is that while there is merit to trying to spur economic development by using a TIF District as a tool, the current proposal includes too large of an area for too long of a time to be beneficial to the broader community.

The village of Sugar Grove does not exist in an island, and the circumstances that exist today will not be frozen in place for a full generation to come.

Each taxing body and each neighboring community is impacted by the decisions of each other, and to ignore the negative impacts created for everyone else in order benefit oneself seems to fly in the face of a true community spirit.

In addition, what may be a sound decision given today’s economic environment could create significant problems just a few years from now, let alone 23. For evidence, look at the economy 23 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even five years ago. Now imagine that today’s communities are bound by economic decisions made by a group of people taking actions based on the specific situations at those times.

If you think that one generation making economic decisions that a future generation will be bound by is a good idea, there is a United States Congress facing its lowest approval numbers ever that might shed light on how wise that type of thinking actually is.

We are glad to see our communities looking at ways to spur local economic growth, and we hope that they succeed in bringing new business and industry to the area. However, we hope that can occur without taking away potentially significant amounts of tax revenue for the various other districts for decades to come.

We have said it before, and we will continue to repeat the message every time it is relevant to the situation: We are a community of communities, and we must communicate effectively and work together so that all will benefit; and avoid situations where one entity is played off another, or one benefits at the expense of another.

We hope the village of Sugar Grove takes the concerns raised by the various other taxing bodies seriously and rethinks their current proposal, because while the overall concept is sound, the specific details leave much to be desired.