Batavia schools critical of city's plan for TIF district
The proposed West Town property tax-increment financing district in Batavia cleared another hurdle Thursday, as representatives from most of the affected governments recommended the plan.
The Batavia school district, however, was not one of them. Anton Inglese, the district's chief financial officer, voted "no" at the joint review board meeting.
If the city council creates the TIF district, property tax payments to the city; township; county; forest preserve district; school, library and park districts; the Batavia and Countryside Fire Protection District; and Waubonsee Community College would be frozen at the current level. Any increase in property taxes would be put in a special fund administered by the city to be used for work done to improve the value of property in the TIF district. The TIF district could last as long as 23 years.
The only extra money the school and library districts would get during that period would be if they can prove that, as a result of the TIF work, more library patrons and students moved into the affected area.
Inglese said the school district wants a provision for the TIF district to reimburse the school district closer to its actual costs, which would be above what the state mandates.
The state says TIF districts for most towns have to pay school and library districts for any increase in their students and patrons that is attributable to redevelopment.
For schools, a formula is used. It is based in part on the school district's eligibility for general state aid for education. Schools in the "foundation" level receive more aid than schools in the "alternate" level because foundation districts are typically poorer. It also uses a figure of $5,900 for tuition per student. Batavia spends about $12,000 per pupil, Inglese said.
Batavia is considered a wealthy district, falling into the "alternate" category, Inglese said. Further complicating the matter is the district's belief the state could change a funding formula sometime in the next three years to send more money to the needier districts.
The area in question is primarily residential. There is a small commercial strip, and some former industrial areas designated for redevelopment as mixed use, with townhouses or apartments above shops. But no big apartment or townhouse complexes are envisioned. The West Town TIF would be in an area roughly bounded by Wilson, Walnut and Harrison streets and Van Nortwick Avenue.
The neighborhood's students attend Alice Gustafson Elementary School, which is near capacity, Inglese said.
Library board President Douglas Sullivan asked if the city intends to borrow money by issuing bonds to seed the district's fund.
"We are not planning on doing any bonding for this TIF district," Scott Buening, the city's community development director said. Buening said the city council generally doesn't like borrowing money for TIF districts. It is considering an internal loan, from its general fund, to a downtown TIF district.
The joint review board's recommendation is only advisory.
A public hearing on the proposal is Nov. 3. The city council could discuss and vote on the proposal 14 days after the hearing closes.