How Elk Grove is using TIF money for new high school culinary lab

Tax increment financing money controlled by Elk Grove Village will pay for nearly half the cost of a state-of-the-art industrial kitchen at Elk Grove High School, which is expanding its culinary arts program.

School districts generally don’t like TIFs — an economic development tool used by Illinois municipalities — because they siphon off property taxes that would otherwise go to schools. Inside the boundaries of Northwest Suburban High School District 214, which includes Elk Grove High, there are 19 existing TIF districts managed by village governments.

But all were smiles and handshakes at this week’s Elk Grove Village board meeting, when town and school district officials lauded each other for an intergovernmental partnership that has the village’s Busse-Elmhurst TIF paying $750,000 of the $1.6 million culinary lab renovation project.

“Elk Grove manages their TIFs at an exceptional level, and they are a wonderful partner,” said District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe, who with Principal Paul Kelly secured the grant after initial conversations with Mayor Craig Johnson last spring. “It honestly is what elevated and made it possible for us to do (the project) this summer instead of putting it on the priorities list down the road.”

Under state law, costs of job training are TIF-eligible. Johnson said the investment can help the school serve as a pipeline for skilled labor needed by companies in the village’s business park.

The big check presentation at the Tuesday night board meeting followed a much smaller check presentation, in which the village provided the school the last installment of a five-year, $500,000 grant for its manufacturing curriculum. The money has been used to modernize the school’s fabrication lab and develop a microinternship program with local businesses.

The culinary lab renovation is tied to a curriculum change that will combine the school’s business and entrepreneurship career pathway with the culinary arts pathway. The goal is for students to become acquainted with all facets of operating a food production business, whether it be in restaurants or catering.

“We can combo things together in a way we’ve never done before,” Kelly said.

He said 150 students are in the culinary arts program, but the kitchen expansion will allow enrollment to grow by 40.

The new kitchen will be equipped with six gas ranges, commercial-grade ovens, mixers, dishwashers and griddles. A glass partition will separate it from a classroom that will be used for instruction, serving, catering and hosting events.

Renovations will begin over spring break and be complete for the first day of school in August. Work will take place at the same time as a $3.2 million upgrade of the student services area.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, from left, presents a $750,000 check to Elk Grove High School Principal Paul Kelly, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Board President Alva Kreutzer and Superintendent Scott Rowe for expansion of the school's culinary arts lab. Courtesy of Emil Schiavo/Elk Grove Village
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