Here’s the response to my request for information about the decorative Route 14 street lights paid for with money from people all over McHenry County through the Virginia Street Tax Increment Financing District:
Archive for the ‘Virginia Street’
A year and a half ago in November of 2011, Crystal Lake city officials gathered in McCormick Park to dedicate the improvements along Virginia Street financed by that street’s Tax Increment Financing District.
Among the improvements were low and high street lights that matched.
During the week of rain, I was stopped at the light at McHenry Avenue and looked at the lights.
They were not the ornamental ones put there with TIF money.
Saturday morning it was foggy.
Take a look at the water tower in McCormick Park next to the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Building.
In the foreground you can see one of the ornamental street lights financed by the Virginia Tax Increment Financing District.
That’s the one with the four $16,000 pillars at its borders on Route 14.
As I will keep repeating, a TIF District is a way for municipal officials to make off with property tax dollars which results in all other tax districts increasing their tax take in order to make up for the difference.
The latest village preparing to take part in this scam is Huntley. The village board is going to create a Downtown TIF District to raise money to make it look better.
That money will come out of the pockets of all McHenry County residents, because county government and the Conservation District cover Downtown Huntley.
I remember reading in either the First Electric Newspaper or the Northwest Herald that Trustee Pam Fender asked if the TIF District would raise taxes.
She accepted the consultant’s assurance that it was not.
The consultant was not telling the truth.
And that brings us back to our “Message of the Day”.
Maybe the TIF consultant was just blowing smoke.
These $16,000 Crystal Lake City Council-approved Tax Increment Financing District boundary markers were made for advertising.
Unfortunately, the west wind-blown snow has obliterated the message of whomever is advertising today.
The advertiser should ask for his or her money back.
Besides increasing parking fees and fining people $100 for speeding past a camera, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has come up with an idea that might work in Crystal Lake.
He suggests selling space on public places, such as bridge monuments.
If there, why not on the Virginia Street Tax Increment Financing District Corridor?
Crystal Lake might be able to pay for the $64,000 worth of pillars through advertising.
“I wonder how much the first lawsuit’s going to be for.”
That’s what one person said about the blocking of the sight line from the Pizza Hut parking lot.
At least when the snow from last February’s blizzard blocked views on Route 14, one knew it eventually would melt.
The new monuments marking the edges of the Virginia Street Tax Increment Financing District cost $16,000 each.
There are lots of questions, one set of which begins with “Why?”
Let me give you a sample:
“Why were they thought necessary or desirable?”
Other questions might start with “What?”
“What were City Council members thinking when they approved spending $64,000 on markers at what will appear to the motoring public as random locations?”
Those not watching TV in the late 1950′s don’t know about the “$64,000 Question.”
It was a game show that started in 1955 and was the precursor of the ones that followed. ‘
Only the amount of the maximum prize kept increasing as inflation took its toll.
An IBM card sorter made noise and provided visual movement. The questions weren’t random, but this was show biz.
The real question here is why the Crystal Lake City Council decided to spend $64,000 on this four pillars.
The first one I saw was near Pizza Hut.
What was it?
It looked like it belonged in a cemetery.
Friday, I learned city officials actually call them “monuments.”
On the monuments is the Crystal Lake City emblem or symbol: a “CL” with sailboat like sails filling in the “C” and the “L.”
So where does the money come from?
Let me quote the Chicago Sun-Times from August 16, 2009:
“TIFs re-direct taxes away from schools, parks and other local government agencies bankrolled by property taxes. Property taxes within a TIF district are frozen at existing levels for 23 years.”
And how much will it cost residents of McHenry County (because TIF districts export what’s spend to taxpayer in all overlapping tax districts and Crystal Lake, of course, is in McHenry County, the Conservation District, the Crystal Lake Park District, School Districts 155 and 47, etc.).
So, what’s the cost?
Mayor Aaron Shepley didn’t know when I asked Friday, but pointed me to someone in the City Engineering Department who would.
= = = = = =
What I heard over the phone was $60,000. The real cost was $16,091, City Finance Director Mark Nannini called something after 10 AM to tell me. Guess I misunderstood an answer to my question of “$16,000.”
I have revised the article and headline to reflect that cost.
= = = = =
The answer (drum roll) is
$16,000 for each one.
There are four.
So, when a local tax districts tells you it can’t afford something that costs $64,000, remember the found monuments on Route 14.
That’s where the money went.
At least the city council members did not insist that their names be placed on the monuments.
Most public officials with an edifice complex do.
The expensive Tax Increment Financing District remake of Virginia Street from Kwik Kopy to the Pizza Hut is finished “on time and on budget,” Mayor Aaron Shepley told a group of contractors and local businessmen this morning on the northeast corner of McCormick Park.
The city web site says the whole project is estimated to cost $9.3 million. (I have a call into the Finance Department for a better answer, but was told to file a Freedom of Information request, which usually takes a week to get an answer. This article will not wait that long, so if city officials want to be more precise, they can call or leave a comment.)
Add to that the State Department of Transportation spend on the highway repaving.
I see $3 million for property acquisition (look below) in the TIF district, which probably isn’t part of the streetscape. There is another $2.5 million for parking, which may or may not represent money for re-working the parking spaces on the north side of Virginia Street.
Shepley extolled the new look, saying it would look even better next year when the plantings were put in.
He explained that the idea was to make Crystal Lake’s original “Main Street” look like Downtown.
For those who don’t know, Crystal Lake was combined with a village called Nunda that grew up around the train station Downtown. The merger explains why the lake resort community streets don’t always fit those in the other part of town. (I remember we got lost a lot when we moved here in 1958.)
The TIF project includes signs pointing to Downtown.
Star 105.5 radio host Joe Cicero suggested a ribbon cutting to celebrate the end of road and “streetscape” construction (and re-construction, as sections of the new asphalt was removed so decorative walkways could be added at Dole and McHenry Avenues).
Shepley said the idea came up 13 years ago at a visioning meeting. There were 21 ideas for the 21st Century, he said.
This idea was pushed by Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller, Shepley said.
After the ceremony I asked Mayor Shepley if there would be another TIF District to continue the streetscaping east of Fifth Third Bank and Pizza Hut.
That’s where the new black light poles, new sidewalks and landscaping end.
Tax Increment Financing District money can only be spent within the boundaries of TIF districts.
“There are no present plans for another TIF,” he said deliberately.
“What the future brings, who knows?”
He added that I had taught him “never to say never.”
I also talked to Shepley about the lost parking places on the north side of Virginia Street.
Pointing to at least two parking spaces that are now covered by grass in front of the white building on the corner of Pomeroy and Virginia, I offered the opinion that it would never be occupied by a business again because of the parking the re-designed of the streetscape had eliminated.
I got the feeling that such implications of less on-street parking had not occurred to him.
Unintended consequences of governmental actions almost always happen.
But some can consequences can be predicted.
It’s not as if the Virginia Street Corridor, the official name of the project, has lots of off street parking similar to Downtown’s.
Two restauranteurs were present for the ceremony, 1776′s Andy Andreski and Andy’s Family Restaurant’s Angie Angelos.
Andresky revealed that the construction season had cut down on his business by 35%.
Angelos declined to offer an estimate, but said that if it were not for her parking lot across the street and loyal customers, not to mention her “construction specials,” business would have been a lot worse. (She plans “End of Construction” specials now.)
Andresky said he though four business had gone out of business during the traffic snarls.
A commenter names Mark added the following information in a previous post entitled,
VIRGINIA STREET CORRIDOR TAX INCREMENT FINANCING REDEVELOPMENT PLAN AND PROGRAM City of Crystal Lake, Illinois, February 2005
A 50 page document stating:
Total Estimated Project Costs: $9,291,000
2003 Equalized Assessed Valuations: $9,845,120
It is estimated that the incremental increase in property taxes over the term of the TIF District in 2003 dollars will be $12,085,875.
Upon the completion of anticipated redevelopment projects it is estimated that the equalized assessed valuation of real property within the Project Area will be in excess of $26,080,000.
This represents an approximate 165% increase in the total equalized assessed valuation.
The following taxing districts cover the proposed Project Area:
Algonquin Township, Algonquin Township Road and Bridge, City of Crystal Lake Fire, Crystal Lake Park District, City of Crystal Lake, College District #528, Crystal Lake Library, McHenry County, McHenry County Conservation District, School District #47, and School District #155.
= = = = =
The way TIF districts work is that everyone outside of the area pays the bill.
That’s because tax districts are deprived of any increase in assessed valuation. The municipality gets all the money from increase assessments to spend in the TIF area. Besides the new lights, sidewalks, signs, brick-like decorations along the sidewalks, planters, etc., the City Council has provided money to various property owners for new signs, new lights, landscaping, and probably other improvements to private business property.
Unless those deprived tax districts bump into their tax ceiling, which hasn’t happened yet since the Tax Cap took effect, they will just raise their tax rates to make up the difference.
There’s still some 30th Anniversary cake at Andy’s Family Restaurant as I write this story at about 10 AM.
My Emmaus Reunion Group meets there Saturday morning’s at 7:30 and Angie Angelos, the founder’s daughter who runs the place, had been reminding us for weeks that there would be free cake today.
It was good, firm white cake from Sam’s.
Turns out there was free coffee, too.
I never acquired a taste for that beverage, but I did get to consume many glasses of water…which was also free.
The Crystal Lake restaurant on Route 14 next to the intersection of Dole Avenue was crowded this morning.
There was a traffic jam at the check-out counter.
Angie was reminded customers that Thursday she would be serving “Andy’s famous corn beef and cabbage.”
The meat is especially good at Andy’s. The side order of ham is about $2.50 and wonderful. I sometimes order instead of oatmeal.
Parking is behind the establishment and in a newly-landscaped and lit lot across Dole Avenue.