By SAMANTHA PIDDE
After tabling the matter at its last meeting, the West Carroll School Board Wednesday, Sept. 16, approved supporting the city of Mount Carroll's plan to extend its existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district by another 12 years.
Mayor Carl Bates initially approached the school board last fall about the possibility of splitting the existing TIF district into two districts and extending the current one. Complications with doing that since then have prompted the city to abandon any plans of creating two districts, instead deciding to focus on extending the existing district as is. Bates attended the school board meeting on Aug. 12 to present the city's TIF extension proposal.
The current TIF is set to end in 2029, for the 2028 real estate tax year. The proposal would extend the TIF to 2041, for the 2040 real estate tax year. All of the taxing bodies within the TIF district, including the school district, must approve the extension.
Last month questions and concerns were raised by school board members about the district losing out on this tax revenue for longer period of time and what the benefits for the school district would be.
During last week's school board meeting via Webinar, Mayor Bates said he and the city would be willing to enter into an agreement with the district for West Carroll to receive funds for any "net increase" of students from the ongoing Shimer Square development project — for which the city has approved a TIF agreement) — by the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH). He estimated the district would see about $3,800 for each additional student brought into the district by the housing development at Shimer Square.
Bates said the city also would consider an application for TIF funds for an improvement project at the West Carroll Middle School. Board member Fred Tipton asked what type of school development projects would be eligible. Bates said he knows one project discussed by the board was a possible track, but added he really would hate to speculate.
"I don't want to pick your project (for you)," Bates said.
In response to Tipton's question about funding for a roof project, Bates said he would "struggle" with using TIF funds for that. Board member Bev Kilpatrick said she understood TIF funds could not be used for regular repairs and Bates said TIF funds should be used for something that will attract people to the area.
Bates said the Shimer Square project is a "great opportunity" for Mount Carroll and the surrounding area, which should make a large impact. It is the possibly large revenue from the project which Kilpatrick said gave her pause about the TIF extension.
"If you're getting a lot of money, we're losing a lot of money. That's my concern," Kilpatrick said. "This is all reasonable until we get far down the road."
Bates said the district approved a similar TIF extension for Savanna a few years ago. He said it is not fair for the district to refuse Mount Carroll's extension request just because everyone knows the city is working with GROWTH on this large project, which could garner a great deal of growth and revenue.
He acknowledged there are never any guarantees on any project, saying, "Everyone's looking at the end game. We've got to get there."
He told the board he looked for and appreciated its support.
When the matter of voting on the request came in front of the board later in the meeting, very little discussion was held.
"I think my concerns have been met," said Kilpatrick, who made the motion to approve the extension request.
The motion approving the TIF extension passed on a 6-1 vote, with Walt Miller casting the lone no vote.