The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Standing room only for Downtown TIF hearing

  • Council members were scrambling to find chairs to accommodate the crowd attending the Harrisburg Downtown Tax Increment Finance District Public Hearing Thursday night and even so some were forced to stand.
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  • Council members were scrambling to find chairs to accommodate the crowd attending the Harrisburg Downtown Tax Increment Finance District Public Hearing Thursday night and even so some were forced to stand.
    Though standing room only generally means an emotional meeting is imminent there were only a few questions asked and the crowd appeared satisfied with the answers they received from TIF consultant Keith Moran.
    Moran — perhaps sensing the most important questions on people's minds — addressed several issues at the outset.
    "TIF is not a tax increase, there is no rezoning, there is no imminent domain," he said.
    He explained the way the TIF works is the amount taxing bodies is the district are owed is capped for 23 years at the beginning of the TIF. If businesses make improvements to their buildings, the amount they owe in real estate taxes — assessed valuation —increases whether or not they are in a TIF. If they are in a TIF, the amount of the increase in assessed valuation goes to the TIF Fund. The city can then rebate a portion of the amount paid to the TIF Fund back to that business as an incentive for making improvements.
    In an ideal situation, owners of downtown business will make improvements, new businesses will move into vacant buildings and as those improvements are happening the city can use TIF Funds for street repairs, sidewalk repairs, water and sewer repairs and downtown beautification. The old TIF that led to the shopping centers and other business on North Commercial Street generated about $723,000 per year for the TIF Fund and the lifespan of that TIF is expiring.
    Moran said there are 704 parcels in the Downtown TIF. Eighty-eight percent of the buildings are over age 35, there is significant building deterioration and a significant number of buildings are vacant. The equalized assessed valuation has been going down in the downtown area — the only place in the city not seeing a gradual increase.
    "It would be nice to see Harrisburg's downtown thrive once again," he said.
    The TIF also includes an area north of town in the Dorris Heights area west along the Route 13 bypass for development.
    Moran said the TIF is set to be officially adopted two weeks from now.
    Someone in the crowd asked what percentage of the tax payment the city would rebate.
    Moran said the amount is discretionary.
    "It can change by the project," Moran said.
    He said it could be 50 percent, it could be nothing or it might be 75 percent.
    The woman asking the question said she lives in a TIF district in Marion and the percent rebated to her has been inconsistent.
    "Any deal the city will ever do will be in writing," Moran said.
    Page 2 of 3 - Someone asked if residential properties that embark on improvement are eligible for the tax rebate and Moran said that is not likely. Residents may benefit from a new sidewalk or a new water line.
    Saline County Board Trustee Joe Jackson asked if the city plans to make available a list of projects and if so can the list change. Moran said there is not a requirement for a list of specific projects at the beginning, only the types of projects the city projects. At the retirement of the TIF projects funded must be specified.
    Harrisburg Township Board Chairman Danny Clayton clarified the State Tax Multiplier could raise the amount of taxes residents pay and that would raise the amount being paid into a TIF, but that is a decision made at the state level and not locally.
    Mike Williams asked about any relationship between TIF establishment and zoning. Moran said the issues are separate and wanted no part in any zoning plans.
    "My personal approach is it can be a good deal," he said, of zoning.
    "Could it be a bad idea? That's up to the people in this room. But zoning is separate from TIF."
    Council meeting
    The regular meeting of Harrisburg City Council following the TIF hearing lasted about an hour with about half spent in closed session.
    Few items generated discussion.
    Garbage and debris
    Council adopted an amended garbage and debris ordinance allowing the code enforcement officer to post properties in violations the way he does tall grass and new penalties for violators.
    Route 13 traffic signal
    Mayor Pro Tem Ron Fearheiley said Mayor Ron Crank — absent for ongoing issues with cancer treatment — had sent Illinois Department of Transportation a letter asking for traffic signals at state Route 13 and Old Route 13, location of many accidents. IDOT has denied the request.
    "It was denied. We don't like it, but there is nothing we can do about it," Fearheiley said.
    Police Chief Bob Smith asked if the decision could be appealed and Fearheiley said he believed it could be only if there is a "really bad" accident. Fearheiley said council could send a letter to IDOT after every accident.
    "If there is a fender bender, we send them a letter," Fearheiley said.
    "They'll get a lot of letters," Smith said.
    Electronic recycling
    The recycling company Baby Huey of Mattoon has decided the two previous electronic and other types of recycling collections have generated enough response that it wants a monthly recycling day.
    The company plans to be in Harrisburg 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Saturday of each month outside the gates of the Veterans Drive leaf and limb collection area.
    Page 3 of 3 - Harrisburg Lake
    Public Properties Commissioner Dale Fowler said one dilapidated property at Harrisburg Lake has been torn down by city crews with the only cost to the city being the Dumpster and that Illinois Youth Center inmates hauled off 16 30-gallons bags full of trash.
    "It's the best it's looked in a long time," Fowler said.
    He asked people continue to respect the property.
    Council approved raises for non-union, non-contractual employees of $.60 per hour and it is retroactive.
    Council appointed Street Superintendent Rick Brown to the dangerous buildings committee.
    Mystery property
    Council approved paying for the $125,000 mystery property approved during the Oct. 3 meeting from TIF funds.
    McPeek in his motion described the property in his motion as the "previously discussed, but not identified" property.
    Council authorized Todd Bittle to advertise for bids for certain properties for sale to be opened during the Dec. 5 council meeting.
    Council directed Bittle to send a letter to the Saline County Building Commission asking to return the amount of the lease of property at the Saline County Law Enforcement Center to the amount it had been previous to the lease expiration.
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