A recently contentious item for the Carrollton City Council came to pass last week with the final approval of a modified tax increment financing district for the downtown area of Carrollton. Advocates for the district have said that it’s the final tool in the city’s pocket to facilitate economic growth. Opponents have said that it will not generate enough tax money that is necessary for local services and upkeep of the local school district. Keith Moran, president of Moran Economic Development, was the executive hired to propose the district for the council. Moran says it will help the municipality to improve the community. “TIF is a pretty common economic tool that’s used in our area. Communities can no longer rely on the federal government to help assist with things like infrastructure, beautification, infrastructure, or those type of things. We certainly can’t rely on the State of Illinois for those type of things as well. What’s left for communities to sput investment and cure ills is the TIF district. It’s one of the few remaining tools in the toolbox that communities can look to and make improvements.”
The proposed district was shrunk from its original proposal back in August after some public outcry that the district was too big. It shrunk by about 69 parcels of property to focus directly on Carrollton’s downtown district next to Illinois Route 67, which runs directly through the middle of town. Moran said his firm has studied the proposed district for a long time to determine why the area was chosen. “One of things that we look at before we even establish the boundaries of a TIF district is we catalog the eligibility factors. We can’t just circle an area and decide that region is going to be our TIF district. Certain conditions need to exist. We have spent a considerable amount of time studying things on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Carrollton has quite a few vacant properties. I think 18% of those in the proposed district are in some form or way vacant. 80% of our buildings are over the age of 35, including many that are considered historic in nature. There are a lot of detoriaration in our primary and secondary buildings. We have surface detoriaration with our streets, parking lots, and sidewalks. We’ve got water systems and utility systems that are 80 years old in places. I think that anyone who lives in or visits the community is going to notice those things, and ultimately, that’s what the TIF is designed to fix.”
Moran says that the properties really have nothing to lose with the TIF because they are actually costing the city money. “Also, one of the things that we look at is what’s going on with the values of the properties within the designated TIF area and what’s going on
outside of the TIF area. What has occurred is that those properties that are within the TIF area are actually generating less and less money for the last three years. When we compare those properties to those outside the area, those values are growing. It’s obviously a candidate for TIF because of property devaluation doesn’t do anyone any good. It means people aren’t investing, so the taxing bodies aren’t receiving any money and the values declined.”
Moran says that the aging home market, population loss, and a lack of recreational facilities in the City of Carrollton have also likely played a part in the decline over the last 5 years in Carrollton. He says that a lot of the opponents of the district have had bad information about what a TIF district does and how it works. Moran believes that, in the end, once the district gets going it will spur investment in the city and also help revitalize infrastructure and bring people back to town. The city has seen two grocery stores close and a number of businesses open and shutter in the historic downtown. He said that some citizens worries about the use of immenent domain to tear down their homes just isn’t true. “The city has immenent domain power anyway. You can go on public record and see how many times it has been used recently. The TIF doesn’t impact the use of immenent domain. There is no properties being taken from anyone. We actually certify in the TIF plan that having property taken can’t occur. I have been trying to get that message out, but people like to say what they want to say. There are no zoning changes associated with the TIF. How you use your property today is how you will be able to use it tomorrow. There are no building code changes. There are no property tax increases associated with the TIF, even though some people have said that it will occur. That’s just not true.”
Moran says his group will now focus on public hearing to disseminate more information to local land developers, concerned citizens and business owners to continue to clear the air about misconceptions about TIF management and how the district will work.