Recently, the O’Fallon City Council voted to move forward with the O’Fallon Central City TIF. The district has repeatedly stated through letters, emails, private meetings with city officials and public addresses to the City Council that we would like to pursue a mutually agreeable pass-through on the TIF. It was and still is the district’s desire to come to a mutually acceptable outcome regarding the O’Fallon Central City TIF, which can be beneficial to the city, local businesses and our schools.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed by the decision of the city of O’Fallon to reject our previous proposals and refuse to offer any counterproposal to the district. The board of education has now approved yet another offer. The board also authorized the district to pursue necessary legal action if the city continues to refuse to work with the district.
In light of the district’s financial situation, the district must secure all funding available so that we can provide the best learning environments for our students and not overly burden our residents with more taxes. The district is among the 15 worst school districts in Illinois in regards to financial health. We face further cuts from the state and have to consider options of cutting more teachers, more programs or, if necessary, closing whole school buildings.
In voting for the creation of this TIF, the city is seizing approximately $7 million from your local schools and pushing the tax burden for city projects on our residents and, worse, negatively impacting the education of our youth.
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TIF districts were originally supposed to bring businesses to blighted areas of our state. It is within this thinking that the city now considers the majority of central O’Fallon blighted. This is the same area where most of the commercial property in District 90 exists.
When a TIF district is created, the schools will not receive any additional tax dollars for the next 23 years. The businesses continue to have their property taxes increased yearly, but all extra money then goes to the TIF district to fund city endeavors.
Try to run your household or business with the same revenue from 23 years ago. Our expenses increase, but our funding is now being diverted to the city-controlled TIF. This can throw an additional burden on our homeowners.
TIFs, unfortunately for taxpayers, have become a spending frenzy. The city plans to beautify streets, add flowerpots, parking. No one is arguing that beautifying an area isn’t a worthy goal, but when it takes money from our schools, one has to question which is more important.
Since property taxes are the main source of revenue for schools, the lack of even an inflation increase will cause great harm. Inevitably the decision by the city could cause your property taxes to rise and, worse yet, be a detriment to your children’s education.
The city has $40 million in reserves, while District 90 recently had to take out a line of credit just to ensure we can pay staff. Can the city not afford to fund their own projects and help with redevelopment with other sources? They have done so for other businesses.
Recently, we proposed a 25 percent pass-through offer; this is the fourth offer we have made to the city. Our first was to completely oppose the TIF, our second was a 50 percent pass-through on the TIF, our third was a 50 percent/25 percent pass-through (split between Southview Plaza and the remaining areas) and, now, our fourth is a 25 percent pass-through.
We have asked for a counter proposal from the city on each of our proposals, but we have received none. We feel like we have worked hard to negotiate and come to a fair middle ground for everyone.
In closing, yes, TIF districts can be used to benefit a community, but they also can be misused. We now have TIF districts that cover the majority of the commercial area within the district. We are not asking to stop the TIF but we do feel like the schools deserve to benefit from the tax dollars allocated to school funding.
Do we really want taxes that were intended for the schools to fund everything? Or do we want that money to be spent educating our children?
We urge the city of O’Fallon to work with our local schools, not against us.
Todd Roach is vice president of O’Fallon Community Consolidated School District 90.