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updated: 11/5/2010 6:29 PM

District 116 seeks new school site in proposed taxing zone

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By C.L. Waller

Round Lake Beach village officials want to create a special taxing zone to spur development, and that could lead to building improvements for Round Lake Beach Elementary School.

However, Round Lake Area Unit District 116 officials said Thursday they also need land within that district to build a new school to relieve overcrowding in existing facilities.

The proposed tax-increment financing district would encompass areas north and south of Rollins Road, west of Orchard Lane and south along Cedar Lake Road.

The 2009 estimated equalized assessed value of the area is about $32 million, and village officials say that could increase to $75 million by 2034 with a special taxing zone.

However, any public entity, including District 116, that collects property taxes from that area would see the assessed value frozen at current levels over a yet-to-be-determined number of years. Any assessment increases would be diverted to a fund to pay for improvements, such as roads, water mains, sanitary sewers and sidewalks.

The village also sees it as a way to spur commercial development in vacant areas north of Rollins Road.

"We are serving the same people and we are intertwined. We are looking for a partnership ... so we can work together," Village Administrator David Kilbane said during the District 116 presentation.

Because Round Lake Beach Elementary is within the designated area, improvements could be made to the school using money from the taxing zone in addition to the roughly $1.5 million District 116 receives annually in property tax collections from the designated area, village officials said.

School districts, which receive most of their revenue from property taxes, are generally wary of any special taxing districts. District 116 has the added concern because it is emerging from years of financial hardship that led to a near dissolution in 2002 and then control by a state finance authority.

District 116 school board member Doug Williams said a TIF district could lead to another referendum if more operating funds are needed, and District 116 officials have to think about all five communities within its boundaries, not just Round Lake Beach.

School board member Ann Welk asked if District 116 could also have land in the taxing zone for a school site. Superintendent Constance Collins said the village and school district need to discuss a potential new school site as part of the zone.

"We know we are challenged in regard to space. We are growing and overcrowded right now," Collins said.

Village officials said there are 60 to 70 vacant acres where a school could be used to transition from a residential neighborhood to a commercial area, but no commitment was made.

A village presentation to the state-appointed board overseeing District 116 is expected in December.