Elgin mayoral candidates on TIF money, business incentives
The two candidates running for mayor in Elgin cite different priorities on how to spend tax increment financing money for the city's central area, and disagree over whether city hall needs to employ someone focused on business.
David Kaptain, the current mayor, is seeking a third term in office. He was elected councilman in 2005 and mayor in 2011. He is a retired chief chemist and director of process control for the Fox River Water Reclamation District.
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger was elected in 2013 and works as an occupational therapist for Elgin Area School District U-46. She previously served as a village trustee in Chelsea, Michigan.
Rauschenberger said she wants to primarily use money from the Central Area Tax Increment Financing District to help businesses, especially young, local and small businesses. "We have all these beautiful streets and sidewalks but where are the businesses to go on them?"
She also wants to bring higher residential density downtown, particularly market-rate rental units, she said.
The TIF district was established in 2002 and has a life span of 23 years, as per state law. In a TIF district, the assessed value of property is frozen and any increases over time are funneled back into redevelopment. Over the years, the district has provided tens of millions of dollars for improvements, particularly downtown.
Kaptain said converting existing buildings downtown into residential units is primary. "It doesn't work that you build a business and people will come. People come and then the business is successful."
It's up to developers, Kaptain said, to tell the city what ventures they believe will be successful, rather than the city council making that determination.
Kaptain said he doesn't believe in giving cash incentives to businesses but generally is OK with sales tax rebates. It's also important to have smooth business processes, and fast-track permitting can be a great help, he said.
Rauschenberger said she doesn't believe in giving any incentives to corporate giants and pointed out she was the only "no" vote five years ago on an auto dealership deal that included a sales tax rebate.
Rasuchenberger said she'd like to have someone at city hall who focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs. That role used to be Rick Kozal's until he became city manager in 2016, she said.
"The city of Elgin needs to step up to be a better partner from just the point-of-view process," she said.
Kaptain pointed out the city already pays for economic development agreements with the Downtown Neighborhood Assocation of Elgin and the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We're always going to have people that say, 'Well, I didn't feel I was treated properly ...'" Kaptain said. "Maybe they felt that their experience wasn't good, but overall I think it's pretty decent."