Geneva OKs new TIF district, without any breaks for school district

  • The former Geneva Bottling Works is in a new tax-increment financing district the city council created Monday to spur property maintenance and economic development.

      The former Geneva Bottling Works is in a new tax-increment financing district the city council created Monday to spur property maintenance and economic development. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • The Buttermilk restaurant in Geneva is in the new tax-increment financing district the city council authorized Monday, over the objection of the Geneva school board.

      The Buttermilk restaurant in Geneva is in the new tax-increment financing district the city council authorized Monday, over the objection of the Geneva school board. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2015

  • The falling-apart Mill Race Inn building on the Fox River in Geneva.

      The falling-apart Mill Race Inn building on the Fox River in Geneva. John Starks | Staff Photographer, 2015

 
 
Updated 7/26/2016 5:34 AM

The Geneva school district gambled and lost Monday night over getting some relief in a new tax-increment financing district in downtown Geneva.

The city council refused to consider a second counterproposal from the school board, adopted earlier that evening. It was too late, several aldermen said; the school board should have acted sooner.

 

And because the school board didn't accept the city's first, and only, offer of a break, the mayor took it off the agenda.

Instead the council voted 7-2 to create the Geneva Fox River Redevelopment Project Area, also known as TIF 3, without designating any increased property taxes from the Geneva Place retirement community and the Geneva on the Dam commercial properties as "surplus."

Taxing bodies, including the school district, would have continued to receive all taxes from the two properties over the 23-year life of the TIF. Normally in a TIF, incremental increases in taxes are diverted to city-led efforts to improve the value of properties in the district.

Mayor Kevin Burns announced the proposal May 23. A formal reply was requested by June 23. The school board voted July 11 to ask for taxes from 13 properties. Aldermen said no July 18 and told the school board it had until Monday to sign a copy of the original offer. In exchange for the two properties, the school board was to agree not to legally object to the TIF.

"I'm just extremely disappointed with the action on the council this evening," said the school district's lawyer, Rick Petesch. Burns even refused Petesch's request, post-vote, to submit the school board's signed counter-offer for the official record of the meeting. The mayor said Petesch should mail or email it instead.

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The council had 90 days after a mid-May public hearing to decide on the TIF district. After Aug. 15, it would have had to have another public hearing.

Aldermen believe public financing is needed to "conserve" the value of properties in the area and spur redevelopment of some that are vacant. The Geneva Fox River Redevelopment Area is generally east of Route 31, to School Street. It includes the vacant Mill Race Inn restaurant and Geneva Bottling Works properties, as well as a vacant strip mall.

But it also includes a commercial block on State Street, and several other properties, that Geneva school officials say are not blighted or at risk of becoming so.

The school board's counter-offer could be considered at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the city council only if two aldermen who voted in favor of the TIF move to have Monday's vote reconsidered.

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