Since McHenry County Blog was started in reaction to the Crystal Lake City Council’s putting Route 14 next to the Vulcan gravel pit in a Tax Increment Financing District, perhaps you will excuse me for returning to the subject once in a while.
For those with memories that don’t go back to 2005, the Vulcan Lake TIF District was going to finance the Three Oaks Recreational Area (TORA, for short).
But right after picking Bill Cellini’s firm to do the development work, Cellini was identified as one of those “Person A” or some other designation in a U.S. Attorney’s indictment.
Cellini, who made substantial sums for the Teachers Retirement Fund from real estate investments pulled himself out of the TIF District management and, eventually, his firm withdrew as well.
Of course, anyone who drives past that Route 14 TIF district knows there has been no real estate appreciation that could possibly have paid for TORA’s development.
So, the City Council decided to high its share of the sales tax by 75% to do the same thing.
That brings us to the question of who pays for TIF-financed projects.
The answer is you, if you live or own property in McHenry County.
In his column on Thursday, the Sun-Times’ Mark Brown reminds readers of that in the context of the DePaul basketball stadium to be subsidized by Cook County taxpayers.
The emphasized paragraph says, “TIF districts, as I hope The Reader’s Ben Joravsky has taught most of you by now, are property tax payments the city siphons from a specific geographic area to pay for a mayor’s pet projects–depriving the schools, park district and other local taxing bodies of their share.”
Although it will be on the Chicago lakefront, every taxpayer in any tax district covering McCormick Place will help pay for it as other tax districts raise their tax takes in order to cover future losses of assessed valuation.
The Vulcan Lake TIF District will suck millions out of the property tax bills of homeowners and businessmen throughout McHenry County over the next twenty or so years. Until other tax districts reach their statutory maximum every tax district that includes part of the Three Oaks Recreation Area will be able to raise their tax rates to make up for the revenue lost in the Route 14 TIF District.
Included on the Tax Rate Calculation page of the McHenry County Clerk’s Office are totals for taxes levied on property within TIF Districts.
Tax Increment Financing Districts are mechanisms that allow municipalities to pry money out everyone in McHenry County who have property outside of the district in question.
This past year the following was taxed so that city councils and village boards could have what amount to unaccountable petty cash funds to distribute to those with property within the TIF districts.
The petitions for re-election are being circulated for Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley and Council members Cathy Ferguson, Ellen Brady Mueller and Brett Hopkins.
The festivities were problem in front of the building you see next to the play area.
And, just in time for the campaign, there is an election kick-off party that required the of spending well over $10 million. $14.37 million, according to the Northwest Herald.
As pointed out in 2005, there was a cheaper way, at least for Crystal Lake area residents.
There was no need for a Tax Increment Financing District to pay for turning Vulcan Lakes into Three Oaks Recreation Area.
Indeed the announcement that a TIF would be formed to finance the project was what stimulated me to start McHenry County Blog. $115 million would be available, said the city’s consultant. Bill Cellini’s group won the contract from the council to do the development, but backed away from it after his name coming up in the Tony Rezko trial.
TIFs are just a way to force everyone (yes, everyone in any overlapping tax district, and because of McHenry County government and the McHenry County Conservation District, that means all county resident) not living in the TIF to pay for it.
It’s a tax increase that the city council voted on all of us.
Oh, wait. That isn’t the way it’s being financed.
With the recession and the decimation of the commercial strip on the Vulcan Lake side of Route 14, the city couldn’t sell bonds to pay for the enormous cost of TORA.
Tall street lights line the roads. This one runs to the parking lot area from Main Street.
MCCD undoubtedly would not have spent, how much, hundreds of thousands of dollars on fancy street lights for a facility that closes at sunset.
That way was to convince the McHenry County Conservation District to take it over.
Had the council done so, our area would have finally gotten back some of the tens of millions of our tax dollars that has been redistributed north, northwest and west, like a kid slinging a bucket of water. The pockets of those in District 47 have ended up as empty as the bucket, another victim of Illinois’ having way too many local governmental units.
But control of the facility was the primary goal of city officials.
And maybe their names on a plaque. The edifice complex in action.
Bragging rights they have achieved include
having been instrumental in constructing the facility and
like Barack Obama, forcing the payment for it on their grandchildren.
Not to mention the ability to feature on their campaign literature what a great accomplishment opening the facility has been.
I couldn’t get close enough to take photos of the council members taking credit for the project without paying $5 for parking.
Not worth the price, so I’ll just run photos of the six council members who voted to raise the city sales tax 75%. There won’t be the same backdrop, but credit will go where it is due.
Mayor Aaron Shepley
Councilman Ralph Dawson
Councilwoman Cathy Ferguson
Former Councilman Dave Goss
Councilman Brett Hopkins
Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller
Shepley, Ferguson, Hopkins and Brady Mueller are up for election next spring. Expect to see TORA on their campaign literature…assuming they even have an opponent requiring them to print any.
The Crystal Lake restaurant that the recession does not seem to be hurting as much as others is planning to switch sides of Route 14.
The old Baker's Square restaurant, in front of which the last TEA Party was held.
Colonial Cafe, which serves my very favorite salad, the citrus tango one with corn bread on the side, is planning to move across the road to where Baker’s Square used to be.
You’d have the owner of the chain why, but my guess is that he is betting that the new Three Oaks Recreational Area, whose main entrance is just down the road a thousand or so feet, will drawn visitors who want a reasonably priced meal.
If that’s not the reason, maybe it’s the development that the owner expects to occur next to TORA. If a hotel is ever built, you can bet that every meal will not be eaten there.
Colonial runs monthly specials. My favorite is the cut rate hamburger, which truly is a good one. The fifty cent ice cream cone, small, but with my propensity to gain weight when I ear carbohydrates, a taste is find, sucked me in. This month, there are $1 sundaes, which blows my diet any day I succumb to the best ice cream in Crystal Lake.
Our Kiwanis Club meets at Colonial the second and fourth Wednesdays at noon. I hope the new place has a suitable meeting room.