Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert asked that we all wait a respectable amount of time for some dialogue about establishing a tax increment financing district for the Gustave Koerner house renovation before "everyone comes out against it."
Long enough. Just consider this to be our part of the dialogue.
Sorry, but it appears even Eckert realizes this idea is doomed from his comment about not making it a priority for city staffers. Why waste their time? We think this is a non-starter for a number of reasons.
First, we're not fans of tax increment financing. It robs from Peter to pay Paul, in this case Peter being not only schools but also the taxpayers as other property tax rates increase to make up for the dollars siphoned off by the districts. Belleville's treasurer's report through April showed the city taking in nearly $17 million through the districts during the previous year, spending $19.3 million and still sitting on a slush fund of more than $12 million waiting to be spent if they don't collect another dime.
Second, the districts are supposed to be used for developing infrastructure in blighted commercial areas that otherwise might not be developed. Is Abend Street blighted, with our congressman living a few doors down? Is it a commercial area?
Third, government needs to stay out of the charity business. Because it represents all of us, government has no business deciding which group is more worthy.
The Koerner House is an asset to the community and an important part of our heritage, tying us to Abraham Lincoln and the birth of the Republicans' anti-slavery platform. It is eminently worthy of preservation and we share the desire to have it open for Belleville's bicentennial.
We are confident that with all the bright, energetic people populating Belleville, a way can be found to accomplish that without taxation. That is where the dialogue should focus, not on creating more government and more taxation.