State senator plans to introduce bill to outline more rules, procedures for TIF districts

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Amid intersecting interests from local townships, businesses and schools and city and state government officials, all parties involved were able to come to a last-minute agreement regarding the renewal of Enos Park’s tax increment finance district.

Now, state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, wants to codify parts of that agreement to apply to TIF districts statewide. She said Tuesday she’s planning to introduce legislation that would outline additional rules and reporting procedures for TIF districts, which are funding mechanisms utilized by cities to fund redevelopment projects, based on the Enos Park agreement and would require public oversight meetings for TIF districts such as Springfield’s economic development commission.

"This was a good exercise because it will allow other communities across the state to benefit from the hard work that was done here in Springfield with this TIF," Turner said. She sponsored legislation that was essentially drafted and passed through the state Senate and House of Representatives Thursday, the last full day the Illinois General Assembly was in session, that paved the way for the continuation of Enos Park’s TIF district, pending approval by Gov. JB Pritzker.

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Interested parties at the local level including Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, Capital Township Supervisor Joe Aiello and Ward 5 Ald. Lakeisha Purchase spoke on the terms of that agreement, which ended a months-long standoff between Capital Township and the city over the TIF district’s renewal, at a press conference Tuesday.

For months, Capital Township denied Purchase’s repeated requests as a board trustee for the board to consider supporting the TIF district’s renewal. That delay resulted in it expiring in December and Capital Township’s letter of support wasn’t filed until Thursday. Purchase resides in the Enos Park neighborhood.

"Joe Aiello’s criticism of our mayor and city council regarding TIF spending were counter productive, unfair and showed a slanted misunderstanding of the Enos Park TIF District," Ward Ald. 7 Joe McMenamin said about Capital Township withholding its approval of the Enos Park TIF District’s renewal for months.

Illinois state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, pumps her fist as Memorial Health President and CEO Ed Curtis mentions their alma mater, Lanphier High School, during a press conference Tuesday at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation to highlight the extension of the Enos Park TIF District. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The closing part of the deal was originally proposed by former Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor, Langfelder said, and was essential to securing letters of support from Capital Township and the Sangamon County Water Reclamation District. It’s customary for all appropriate taxing bodies to provide letters of support for a TIF district prior to the state renewing it and those two organizations were holding out in the hopes they could have more oversight over all of the city’s TIF districts.

Capital Township’s support for the continuation of the Enos Park TIF District is contingent on expanding the existing Economic and Community Development Commission to allow representation from Capital Township, the sanitation district and Lincoln Land Community College‘s district. Those commissioners must be city residents, according to Capital Township’s letter of support.

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That commission subsequently met after the press conference Tuesday. Commissioner Shelia Stocks-Smith said during that meeting she hopes the new members bring some diversity to the group. Purchase was the last Black person to serve on the Economic and Community Development Commission when she was a Capital Township board trustee. She resigned as a trustee and a commission member when she was confirmed as Ward 5’s representative on the city council in September.

"We need (diversity) in a significant way, not just one person," Stocks-Smith said. She said the commission has been working to become more diverse since it started because it makes recommendations on TIF funding requests from a diverse pool of business owners and local organizations.

Ravi Doshi, a new economic development officer for the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, is helping facilitate monthly meetings for the commission after it went the whole summer without a quorum. He said the commission could possibly expand to 10 members to accommodate appointees detailed in Capital Township’s letter of support. 

"(The Economic and Community Development Commission) was a group I brought into fruition as mayor because, prior to me coming into office, (Springfield City Council) members always thought TIF was the mayor’s project," Langfelder said. "That’s not it. It’s the people’s project."

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Additionally, Aiello said the city agreed to implement a scoring system for redevelopment projects that "adheres to the original purpose of the TIF district." He has long been a critic of the city using millions of redevelopment dollars to partly fund the new YMCA, 601 N. Fourth St., because it is a nonprofit that doesn’t directly contribute to the property tax base and therefore shouldn’t be partially funded with money from the TIF district, he argued.

"(The YMCA) will help bring millions to that area to reinvest, which will really put it on a trajectory that we all want," Langfelder said, calling the recreational center an "anchor" for the community.

McMenamin agreed, saying the YMCA has overwhelming community support and will result in development projects in the area. Other public figures including state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, and Memorial Health president and CEO Ed Curtis commended the city putting money toward the YMCA.

Illinois State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, discuses the process of getting the bill that extended the Enos Park TIF district passed during a press conference highlighting it’s extension at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, November 2, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

"More people want to live, and there will be more ability to build restaurants and things, in the medical district here if you have an anchor project like the Y," Curtis said. Memorial Health itself put $12 million toward the recreational center’s construction.

"Not everyone in the general assembly views TIFs the same way we do," said Scherer, who introduced the bill paving the way for the TIF district’s renewal in the House, "because they don’t see the people who are directly affected by it. They don’t see the kids at the park, they don’t see the young people using the YMCA, the people being able to come to a building like this."

The last component of Capital Township’s letter of support was a suggestion that the Joint Review Board made up of all relevant taxing bodies meet more regularly to discuss the city’s TIF districts. It tends to only meet annually to review annual reports and is established by state law.

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A bill sponsored by Turner was signed into law by Pritzker in July that requires cities to report more data regarding how many jobs were created by TIF district projects.

The Enos Park TIF District, which expired Dec. 15, covered an area from Second Street to 10th Street and Carpenter Street to just north of North Grand Avenue. If its renewal is finalized as expected it would be retroactive funding-wise to when it expired.

Contact Riley Eubanks: reubanks@sj-r.com, twitter.com/@rileyeubanks

via The State Journal-Register

November 2, 2021 at 06:35PM

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