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updated: 2/3/2013 6:16 AM

Libertyville rebates a chunk of special taxing district funds

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Property taxes can be a sore spot, but several entities in the Libertyville area are pleased to be getting back a good portion of the cash that for many years had been withheld from them.

Ten entities will share more than $1.9 million in rebated taxes from a special taxing district originally established in 1986 by Libertyville officials as a means to raise money for downtown improvements.

For some like Lake County, it represents a tiny fraction of a large pie. But for others, like the Cook Memorial Public Library District, the rebate will have a more direct impact. Under a resolution recently approved by the Libertyville village board, the library district will receive $72,259.

The district hasn't budgeted the money and considers it a "very welcome" addition, said Executive Director Stephen Kershner. Staff members will make suggestions and the library board will determine how the money is spent. There are several possibilities to consider, he added.

"We have emerging digital services, digital collections in addition to traditional print media, and we have a number of projects relating to children and youth and seniors and outreach that are kind of in a holding pattern," Kershner said.

The biggest winners are Libertyville Elementary District 70, with $716,331 to be rebated by the village, and Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 scheduled to receive $682,477.

In District 70, the bulk of the money will be used to make the bond payment for projects that included roof work and air conditioning at three schools and window replacement at two others during the past two summers.

An unspecified amount also will be used for expenses associated with "advanced security improvements" at the district's five schools, according to Superintendent Guy Schumacher.

"We've talked about it and now we have the money to make a difference," he said.

The rebates are the result of an arrangement that allowed Libertyville to extend the life of its original tax increment financing district, which covers the downtown and surrounding area.

In a TIF district, property values are frozen for taxing purposes but are still assessed. As improvements are made with new sidewalks, for example, and property values increase, taxes paid on the increased value -- the increment -- are set aside in a special fund for a variety of purposes.

TIF districts are established for 23 years. That meant Libertyville's TIF would have expired in 2009 before a main goal -- making parking improvements on the east and west sides of Milwaukee Avenue adjoining downtown -- was complete.

The village met with the nine other taxing bodies and gained support to extend the district for another 12 years until 2021 on the condition that 70 percent of the increment would be rebated each year. The measure was approved by the state legislature, which overrode a veto by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to make it official.

Since then, more than $10 million in TIF funds was spent on a parking deck at Lake Street and Brainerd Avenue and extensive surface parking improvements nearby.

On the east side, the village intends to build a parking deck and make surface lot improvements. Several sites are being considered for the deck, while talks are planned with property owners between School Street and Cook Avenue for leases to allow for surface lot improvements.

The village will put its rebate share of $141,389 into the TIF fund for east side parking, according to village Administrator Kevin Bowens.

Tax: Rebates come from deal to extend TIF district

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