The village of Shorewood is looking to set plans in motion to implement a tax increment finance district to encourage redevelopment among properties located along Jefferson Street and Route 59.
A TIF is an economic development tool that freezes property tax bases to allow new revenue generation to support eligible projects that benefit constituents bound by a taxing district. The effort to implement a TIF district within Shorewood began more than a year ago, officials said. The village has retained financial services firm Kane, McKenna and Associates to help assist officials through the process.
“This is an incentive the municipality wants to utilize to draw and encourage economic development,” said Mary Thompson, senior planner at Kane, McKenna and Associates. “Since the downturn in the economy, we’ve been at a standstill.”
The project’s scope meets the criteria set forth in accordance to TIF eligibility rules, and is recognized by the state as a conservation area, or space where blighted conditions might not exist but could result if not addressed in due time. Under that condition, roughly 50 percent of the facilities in the proposed TIF district must be 35 years or older.
The act outlines that a municipality must hold a public meeting if 75 or more homes are located within a proposed area. The approximately 260 acres, 349 tax parcels and 173 structures could be affected by the proposed TIF.
Thompson noted that implementing a TIF doesn’t always equate to higher property taxes, as the use of the financial planning term might commonly suggest.
“Just because the word tax appears, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a higher tax bill,” she said. “You may get a higher tax bill, but it’s not going to be because the TIF is in place.”
A number of residents shared similar concerns during a public meeting Oct. 21, questioning the extent to which community input is to be considered when the village decides how TIF dollars, or new monies generated by the TIF, are used.
“Any developer that comes into this town, regardless of whether it’s in a TIF or not in a TIF you have to access to, they must go through a public process,” she said. “They have to go through the plan commission… The philosophy of the project has to be in tune.”
Noting that Village officials have power that is subject to checks and balances through an annual jurisdiction review board meeting, Community Development Director Karen James said a resident affected by the proposed TIF district is to be selected to represent the community.
Under a TIF, projects eligible for funding typically stem from public-private partnerships that involve acquisition, site preparation, landscaping and public infrastructure.
Thompson said she wants it to be clear that the village has no intention to acquire properties that belong to residents.
“As a matter of fact, we have a TIF Act and a TIF eligibility report that says we certify that,” she said.
James said she understands the concerns of residents voiced during the meeting, but the downtown area is the heart of the Shorewood community and that is where the idea of implementing a TIF stems.
Paul Aldarondo, of Shorewood, said he understands the concerns that residents hold, but he also knows the power that a TIF carries.
“The first thing is if they’re able to take that percentage of the taxes we’re already paying and put it aside to reinvest in our neighbor, it’s a huge advantage because our neighborhood needs investment,” he said. “It’s the oldest section and the original section of the village, so it definitely needs some reinvestment and needs some improvement for sure.”
Aldarondo said he looks forward to seeing improvements within the proposed redevelopment area.
“I feel confident in their ability to manage the village,” he said.
Kelly Dechman, of Shorewood, said she walked into the meeting feeling worried about the TIF, her husband and their kids’ future.
“Initially, I looked at their website and with their plans for the Riverwalk and all of that, it’s going right through my backyard,” she said. “I really thought that the TIF was connected to that. I know that they said that it’s not.”
Still, Dechman said she’s fearful her property taxes may rise. However, by the meeting’s end she said she was feeling less upset.