SG residents, taxing bodies take aim at proposed TIF District

By on August 19, 2011

Aug. 25, 2011 Update:
In the page 1A story about the Sugar Grove TIF District on Aug. 18, the Elburn Herald published an incorrect date for the next public hearing. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
The Elburn Herald wants its news reports to be fair and accurate. If you know of an error, please contact:
Ryan Wells, Editor
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by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Tempers flared and tensions were high at times as between 150 and 175 members of the public attended the village’s first public hearing regarding its proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

The turnout for the public hearing was so overwhelming that the Village Board was forced to move its meeting from Village Hall to the basement of the Sugar Grove Community House. Once the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., residents spent nearly three hours making it clear to the board their concerns regarding the TIF District.

And those concerns ranged from the length and size of the TIF District, to the issue of whether or not village residents would be on the hook for municipal bonds issued. Some residents aired their displeasure with the air, noise and light pollution caused by the light industrial property that already exists in the area, and balked at the development of even more industrial property via TIF District. One resident asked if Sugar Grove was going to become “the next Naperville.”

Mike Hoffman of Teska Associates, the company that designed the TIF District redevelopment plan for the village, handled much of the speaking on the village’s behalf, and provided an extensive presentation explaining the intricacies of the 1,800-acre TIF District, if approved, that would be in effect for 23 years.

A TIF District is an economic tool that seeks to stimulate economic development by taking the incremental tax the village receives for improving a projected area. Those dollars are then used to fund the development costs. Simply put, businesses within the boundaries of the TIF district are provided with added municipal support and infrastructure. The TIF District proposed by Sugar Grove is projected to cover the area that stretches from Route 47 (north) to an area near the Burlington Northern Railroad (south), and Aurora Municipal Airport (east) to village limits (west).

Sugar Grove taxing bodies were also given the floor during the hearing. Sugar Grove Fire Protection District Chief Marty Kunkel chose to speak to the residents instead of addressing the Village Board. Kunkel said the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District is “adamantly opposed” to the TIF District, because it believes the proposed district does not meet state statute qualifications and will negatively impact the FPD in terms of both operation and finance.

“Granted, there is TIF money that (may) be made available, and the key word there is ‘may’ be made available, for anything we might need—it might be a new fire station; it might be a new fire truck. But what (the TIF District) doesn’t cover is the operational costs … If I have an increased need for service, I have to put on more people and I have to pay those people,” he said.

Kunkel said that the 17 taxing bodies will have their tax grade frozen on day one of the TIF District, and it will remain that way for the next 23 years. The Fire Protection District currently receives $89,000 a year in revenue from the property included in the TIF. If the TIF District does work out according to plan, the Fire Protection District’s revenue will have ballooned to $1.3 million per year when the TIF District expires.

“That’s millions of dollars in lost revenue for us. Granted, that’s all based on (the TIF District) being built up, but I am just using the terminology and the numbers that were provided in the plan.”

Kunkel also spoke about the two Joint Review Board meetings that took place last month.

“Doing the Joint Review Board, there initially started out (with) 17 taxing districts that were a part of the Joint Review Board. That (number) was narrowed down to 15 for different reasons. Of those 15, there (were) only eight (taxing bodies) that voted,” he said. “Primarily, the Joint Review Board meetings were held in the afternoon, and there (were) members of those taxing bodies that could not come during the afternoon, because they were working full-time jobs that did not have the ability to provide input into the Joint Review process.”

One resident mentioned his belief that not all TIF Districts are bad—the city of Aurora used TIF money to create Chicago Premium Outlets—but believes the TIF District proposed by Sugar Grove places an “undeserving burden on an individual taxpayer almost immediately” by freezing what few tax revenue dollars each taxing body receives for the next 23 years.

Big Rock Supervisor Sandy Carr and Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler stated their opposition to the TIF District, and representatives from many other taxing districts also raised their specific concerns with the proposal.

A brief moment of considerable tension between residents and Village Board arose when Carr, reading a prepared speech, reiterated a question she was asked regarding whether or not it is a conflict of interest for Village President Sean Michels to vote on the proposed TIF District when members of his family could potentially benefit from the establishment of a TIF District. After the question was raised, Sean Michels immediately took exception to the remark and claimed that his ethics were being questioned. Shouting between a group of residents and a few board trustees ensued, escalating for a few moments before Michels allowed Carr to finish her prepared speech.

As comments began to wind down, the TIF District public hearing was tabled, allowing it to carry over to the next Village Board meeting on Sept. 6.