Elgin assesses how to allocate TIF funds

Dwindling casino revenues for the city of Elgin means that city leaders have had to make choices about which programs to sustain and which programs to shift to other sources of funding.

For the second year in a row, the city's proposed budget includes $100,000 for historic rehabilitation grants to be funded by the Central Area Tax-Increment Financing District. The grants provide financial assistance to eligible homeowners who perform exterior architectural improvements to their historic homes. Because the money comes from the TIF district, only residents of the district are eligible.

City Manager Rick Kozal said a few residents recently contacted city staff and council members asking for the grants to be made available to historic homes throughout the city, as they were in the past.

If council members wanted to go that route, money could be reallocated from $150,000 set aside in the 2019 general fund to rehabilitate 44 alleys throughout the city, Kozal said.

Council members said it was a tough choice, but generally leaned toward keeping funding as is.

"We have some alleys that are in really, really bad shape," Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

Councilman Terry Gavin pointed out the alleys are public property, while the grants go to private properties.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger suggested finding "some sort of mechanism" in the future to make the grants more widely available.

A TIF district freezes property tax money going to local governments for 23 years while added tax revenue from an area's increased value afterward is funneled back into development. The Central Area TIF District was established in 2002 and includes major entry corridors into downtown Elgin and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The city anticipates $2.8 million in yearly Central Area TIF revenues through 2023, when the district will reach the end of its life. Those revenues have flattened out after increases in property values in the last few years, Kozal said.

The largest expenses budgeted in 2019 for the Central Area TIF District - which includes nearly $4 million in cash carried over from previous years - are $2.7 million for the Chicago Street sewer separation project and $2 million for improvements to Civic Center Plaza. The city council is expected to examine proposals for the latter sometime next year.

There's also $460,000 for the fire sprinkler grant program, available to help downtown business owners front sprinkler costs if they want to upgrade or convert upper floors into residential units.

The total proposed 2019 budget is $267.4 million. The city's fiscal year starts Jan. 1.

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