All it would have taken was for someone in village government to stuff a building permit into an envelope addressed to the county assessor, apply a 49-cent stamp and drop it in the mail.
If that had happened back in 2013 when the renovation of a beauty salon on Main Street was complete, thousands of dollars would likely have been collected and added to Dupo’s property tax income.
Because nothing was mailed, at least $12,000 was lost in potential increased taxes over three years on the shop, whose owner received a free grant of $79,300 in 2012 from village taxpayers. This income would have been shared between the village’s Tax Increment Financing District — which issued the grant to improve the business — the school district, county government and various Dupo municipal entities that depend on tax revenue.
Mayor Jerry Wilson, who took over in April, earlier said he had no idea that the St. Clair County assessor’s office wasn’t being notified about this and other completed renovation projects in the village, and didn’t know who was responsible for notifying the county.
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On Wednesday, Wilson again was asked who was supposed to do the mailing of the notices so that county officials would know the improved property needed to be reassessed. “I’m still trying to find out,” he said. “They’re only cheating their own town when they don’t follow rules,” Wilson said about former Mayor Ron Dell, who left office after 16 years.
Dell could not be reached for comment.
The Illinois TIF law that allows municipalities to award public grants that don’t have to be repaid for local renovation projects operates on the principle that taxpayers will eventually benefit because the construction will increase the assessed valuation. While the individual project’s tax bill will go up, the overall tax rate will stabilize or even decrease. But the only way that will happen is if the county assessor’s office is notified by mail that a project is completed and a new assessment is needed.
“That’s the only way we would know,” St. Clair County Assessor Jennifer Gomric Minton said. She added that routinely when completion of a property renovation project is received by mail in her office, a new assessment is scheduled.
I think the village of Dupo officials are the most egregious people I have ever seen. They listen to nothing. They do nothing except spend an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money.
Dupo businessman Dan Weaver
“We never received anything about this,” she said concerning 116 N. Main St., Dupo, a $160,000 expansion and renovation of Sue’s Men & Women’s Hair Style Salon. About half the cost came from a TIF grant.
Owner Sue Link declined to comment.
According to public records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, since 2012 the village of Dupo has approved about $522,000 in TIF projects and paid out $304,300. It was unclear from the provided records whether any of these projects, except for the beauty salon, were ever finished and reassessed.
Village businessman Dan Weaver discovered this year that after completion of the beauty salon in late 2012, the assessed valuation and property taxes on the building actually decreased slightly instead of going up, even though the square footage of the business nearly doubled.
“I think the village of Dupo officials are the most egregious people I have ever seen. They listen to nothing. They do nothing except spend an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money,” said an angry Weaver whose requests under the state’s Freedom of Information Act and outspoken criticism at village board meetings have made him unpopular with some village officials.
“I stood up at a meeting to ask about this and I was told ‘No questions, only comments,” Weaver said. “Not collecting these taxes is outrageous. How much are we losing?”
The beauty salon property was reassessed this year as part of a regularly scheduled, five-year reassessment by the county. As a result, the 2017 assessment of the beauty shop more than tripled from $17,911 to $59,003. As the assessed valuation increases, so should the tax bill.
While tax rates have not yet been finalized for this year, based on the rates for 2016 the shop’s annual tax bill would increase from $1,864 to about $6,150. The difference between these amounts — about $4,300 — could have been collected each year between 2013 and 2015.
The village employs Moran Economic Development of Edwardsville as a $95-an-hour economic development consultant that handles TIF projects. The firm was paid approximately $41,000 between December of 2014 and April of this year, according to copies of village checks.
Owner Keith Moran said it is not his firm’s duties to notify the county assessor of completed renovation projects.
“We don’t have the staff for that,” he said.