Editorials

$25,000 for Tax Increment Fraud

East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton says he spent $25,000 from a city tax increment financing grant, plus another $25,000 of his own money, on his “home” at 1232 Cleveland Ave. in East St. Louis. He claims to live here along with 23 other registered voters, and not with his wife in Caseyville at the home where his older pickup truck is registered.
East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton says he spent $25,000 from a city tax increment financing grant, plus another $25,000 of his own money, on his “home” at 1232 Cleveland Ave. in East St. Louis. He claims to live here along with 23 other registered voters, and not with his wife in Caseyville at the home where his older pickup truck is registered. tvizer@bnd.com

Remember a few weeks ago when those East St. Louis business people protested about being reassessed and their property tax bills exploding? A closer look at their tax bills showed the bulk of their tax increases were not going to schools, or to police and fire protection or to the many layers of government they must support.

The big bucks were going into tax increment financing funds. One businessman, Nathaniel Jeffries, will pay $4,171 more into the TIF fund after his modest commercial building at 16th and State streets was reassessed. Landlords and other businesspeople had similar tax hikes and complaints.

If that money were going to create a streetscape or improve the streetlights or create a business district that might draw more customers, maybe there would be an argument for dinking the small businesspeople. But that’s not where the TIF money has been going.

The money has gone to projects such as home improvements for the politically connected, including East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton.

Hamilton got $25,000 in tax increment financing funds for a run-down shack at 1232 Cleveland Ave. that he claims is his home. He also claims he shares the home with 23 other registered voters. He calls it home despite the fact that his wife lives at 2610 N. 89th St. in Caseyville, he parks his new pickup at the Caseyville address and his old pickup is registered in his name at the Caseyville address. And Hamilton claims he added $25,000 of his own money to the city’s TIF investment into his East St. Louis “home.”

There is no evidence that the house had $50,000 worth of improvements. Before and after photos look the same. The property was assessed at $11,000 before the “improvements” and it is only assessed at $12,100 even after the big reassessment that has property owners protesting.

A $25,000 TIF investment is yielding another $22 in property taxes per year from Hamilton’s East St. Louis residence, meaning the city’s investment will pay off in the year 3152.

So is it even possible that the guy who spent $84,970 on a township American Express card would fail to make $50,000 in improvements to his “home” as promised?

Hmmmm. Sounds like a good question for those federal investigators who recently served the subpoena on the township.

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