RANTOUL – Rantoul Township Supervisor James Rusk says the village needs to slow down its efforts to create a second tax increment financing district.
"I've got some concerns about how quickly we're moving on this thing," Rusk said. "I think we need to have more public input before a decision is made."
Rantoul, which has had a tax increment financing district on the former Chanute Air Force Base since 1995, has begun the process that could lead to the formation of a second district for the downtown area and perhaps some residential areas.
A tax increment financing district freezes the property values available to local taxing bodies within the district for a set period of time, usually 23 years.
As redevelopment starts and property values rise, tax money from the increase in property values – the increment – is put into a special fund managed by the city or village. The municipality spends money from the fund to pay for public improvements or finance redevelopment projects within the district.
Rantoul Aviation and Economic Development Director Reed Berger said seven firms submitted proposals to serve as consultants for the proposed second district.
Village staff has narrowed the field to three consulting firms: Economic Research Associates of Chicago, Economic Development Resources of St. Louis and PGAV Urban Consulting of St. Louis.
The village board is expected to vote to hire one of those firms at its meeting at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Rantoul Municipal Building, 333 S. Tanner St.
The chosen firm would conduct a study of Rantoul to determine which areas qualify to be in a tax increment financing district. (Properties generally have to be considered blighted areas to qualify.)
"We're talking about downtown and looking at some residential areas," Berger said. "We're not saying yet that the tax district is going to be a certain size or shape. It may turn out that some of these areas don't legally qualify to be in a tax increment financing district."
If the village board decides to proceed with the second district, the firm would help create a redevelopment plan and work with other taxing districts that might be affected by the district.
"We'll be developing a vision of what we want downtown Rantoul to be," Berger said.
Berger said he expects the village to spend between $25,000 and $35,000 on consulting fees and have the work completed by December.
Village board member Ron Loy said $30,000 is a small price to pay for the potential benefits of a tax increment financing district.
"If we do absolutely nothing, the downtown is sure to lose more than $30,000 of assessed valuation," Loy said. "We have some serious problems with underground infrastructure downtown and no money to pay for it."
But Rusk said he is concerned about the effects a second tax increment financing district might have on townships, school districts and the park district.
"We just went through two of the largest tax increases for our school districts that Rantoul has ever seen, and I believe they were partially caused by the existing tax increment financing district," Rusk said. "Before we jump to create another tax district to cover almost a third of the town, let's look closely at our first district and discuss closely what the plans for this new district are going to be."
Rusk said he is especially opposed to putting residential areas within the proposed district.
"I just think we need to have more public input before we move on a new tax increment financing district," he said.
Berger said he expects both Rantoul Township High School and Rantoul City Schools to be involved with the creation of the proposed second district.
"The schools will be intimately involved with the process of determining the boundary lines," Berger said.
Berger said the village has an obligation to the owners and developers of downtown properties to listen to their needs.
Village Administrator Gary Adams stressed that no decision has yet been made whether to proceed with a second tax increment financing district.
"We're all interested in making Rantoul better," Adams said. "All that anybody is talking about is possibly giving Rantoul a tool for additional economic growth. If we don't have the ability to dream a little bit about Rantoul's future, then we are going to stagnate."
You can reach Tim Mitchell at (217) 351-5366 or via e-mail at email@example.com.