DeKalb joins other cities in pursuit of state aid

By Darrell Hassler

DeKalb and other Illinois cities are vying for position to get money they feel the state owes them for economic development next year.

DeKalb officials say the city has been shorted about $250,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money to improve economically- depressed areas of DeKalb.

Linda Boyer from the DeKalb economic development office said the city received $646,806 this year in state aid compared to $893,948 the city was supposed to get through the program.

The state was supposed to give $24 million to 102 economically-depressed areas in Illinois, but the budget made in July only gave $18 million to TIF districts, the Associated Press reported.

State officials said there were no guarantees that cities would get all the money for the program. “Our state is facing a severe financial crisis right now,” said State Representative Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore.

But Don Eslick, head of the Illinois Tax Increment Association, said the TIF program is unique. Since the program is supposed to promote economic development, Eslick said it could help bring Illinois out of its economic slump.

Eslick said he is talking to Gov. Jim Edgar’s administration to find ways to help cities get what the state has promised them.

The money has been used to develop land for an industrial park, make improvements to the Egyptian Theatre, construct a public parking lot and improve streets.

Boyer said the money has “absolutely” helped in developing DeKalb’s TIF district which includes Taylor Municipal Airport, downtown and the east industrial park. However, she said without the expected money new building programs will have to be delayed or cut.

In TIF districts, a city freezes property and sales taxes in depressed areas, keeping assessment at the same level it was before development. The community issues bonds and makes improvements or low-interest loans to draw businesses to the area.

So far, Eslick said no cities “are screaming and hollering” because of the cuts. But, he added they will have to make sacrifices to replace the lost income.

DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said DeKalb has been shorted over $1 million in the five years the program has existed. “That makes it tough for us,” Sparrow said.