Forest Park’s village council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution expressing the village’s support for Tax Increment Financing districts as a concept and a tool of economic development.
This was done at the request of the Illinois Municipal League in order to shore up support opposing any attempts to narrow TIF eligibility requirements and otherwise alter current Illinois TIF regulations. Village Administrator Moses Amidei said while the municipal league isn’t aware of any such bill in the Illinois General Assembly, it wanted to prepare for a repeat of Senate Bill 2298, which was originally introduced on Feb. 25, 2021, but didn’t make it out of committee before the 102nd session of the General Assembly ended. That bill would have effectively limited TIFs to lower-income areas, give local taxing bodies more of a say in establishing TIFs and also declaring TIF surpluses and TIF extensions and forbidding overlapping TIFs, among other changes.
Amidei argued that TIFs are a vital economic tool for non-Home Rule municipalities such as Forest Park. This comes as the village is looking to extend the Brown Station TIF, which will otherwise expire at the end of 2023. Amidei said he’s still waiting to hear back from other local taxing bodies which need to offer support for an extension but he hopes to find out where they stand by early spring.
When a TIF is created, property tax revenue in the district is frozen at a base level and taxing bodies receive only their share of that base. As property values in the district gradually increase, the added taxes are deposited into a TIF fund. The idea is to use this added funding to encourage development, which would raise property values and, thus, property taxes, in the long run. But while the TIFs were originally meant to encourage development in “blighted” areas, as the municipal league acknowledged in the message opposing SB2298, the requirements are broad enough that any area, even downtown Chicago and well-off suburbs such as River Forest can qualify in certain cases.
The resolution approved at the Jan. 23 meeting describes TIFs as “a critical mechanism to spur economic development for the village” that is “essential for the continuing economic vitality of the village.”
Forest Park currently has three TIFs, with Roosevelt Road and Roosevelt/Hannah TIF collectively encompassing most of the Roosevelt Road commercial corridor. The Brown Street Station TIF, also known as Brown/Harlem TIF, encompasses much of the village’s northern edge. It is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2023. The Illinois General Assembly can extend TIFs for another 12 years, but it usually requires letters of support from other affected taxing bodies.
Over the past two months, Amidei gave presentations to all of those taxing bodies outlining how Forest Park hopes to use the TIF if it is extended. That includes covering some of the costs of redoing the Harlem Avenue railroad bridge, demolishing the water tower on the nearby CTA rail yard, replacing lead water pipes within the district boundaries, paying for building improvement grants for businesses within the TIF and supporting future redevelopment of the Forest Park CVS pharmacy location, which closed Aug. 13, 2021. If those plans don’t pan out, Amidei told the taxing bodies that the village will send the uncommitted funds and any surplus back to taxing bodies.
He told the Review that, as of Jan. 23, he spoke with all taxing bodies, and while he heard from four of them, he is yet to hear from the other four. Amidei confirmed that the latter group includes the two school districts, which account for the largest share of the tax bill – Forest Park School District 91 and Proviso Township High School District 209.
While he said that there was no firm deadline for when the legislation can be submitted to the General Assembly, he hopes to have the answer by spring. At that point, Amidei plans to put together a village council ordinance that, if passed, would make the request to the state official.
He said Forest Park will continue to support keeping TIF eligibility requirements and scope as they are.
“As a non-Home Rule [municipality], we don’t have a lot of tools in our toolbox to assist our community development efforts,” Amidei said. “If you reduce the effectiveness of what the TIFs do, it hurts towns like Forest Park.”