Mayor Steve Gottschalk and Cambria Village Board are concerned about their village. They face aging infrastructure, few businesses and shrinking resources from the State of Illinois. One way they are trying to combat that is by creating a TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, District.
“The Village of Cambria was surviving on grants and loans from government agencies the past 16 years,” Gottschalk said. “Once the state decided to cut back, many of the grants dried up.”
According to the Cambria TIF proposal, created by Jacob and Klein Ltd. and The Economic Development Group Ltd., the purpose of the TIF is to remove and alleviate adverse conditions, encourage private investment and restore and enhance the tax base. The proposed TIF includes 95 percent of the village’s commercial and residential property.
“The other aspect of the TIF is we’ll get new homes where there are ones that are no longer livable,” Gottschalk said.
Some residents of Cambria and the surrounding area have concerns about the TIF. Probably the biggest issue surrounding a proposed TIF District in Cambria is the effect it could have on Carterville Unit School District 5.
A TIF sets property taxes at a pre-development baseline. As property values increase, the difference, called the tax increment, is put into a special fund for a period of 23 years. It is used to pay back the investment of developers, with the remainder available for use by the village.
Carterville schools would receive the same amount in taxes from Cambria that they got this year. Part of the problem is that new development brings new residents — many with children — to the area. Carterville schools will receive the same amount of tax dollars with increased enrollment.
“Any property in the TIF goes into an equalized assessed value for 23 years. It shows no growth until the TIF expires,” Superintendent Keith Liddell said during a recent school board meeting.
Residents like Jennifer Ramirez and Lisa Nation worry that the school district will have to raise property taxes to pay for the increased enrollment. Although property in Cambria would be protected from property tax raises, property in Carterville and Crainville would not. They would pay more to educate students from Cambria whose parents moved to new developments.
Cambria officials have offered to give the school district 15 percent of TIF funds collected. The district has agreements with Carterville and Crainville to receive 27.6 percent of TIF funds. The agreements also restrict Carterville and Crainville from creating residential TIF districts.
Gottschalk said the village is still negotiating an agreement with the school district. If the district rejects the agreement, the village is under no obligation to make a contractual commitment to the school district. It is more likely that the village would make donations to the district for specific projects.
Ramirez and Nation, like many other residents of the Tri-C area, would support a strictly commercial TIF district in Cambria. They are opposed to the creation of a residential TIF district.
Residents also see any involvement by Zach Cox in a vote related to creating a TIF district as a conflict of interest. Cox is owner of Skyline Contracting, which has been used in the past as a subcontractor by one of the TIF developers.
Cox will abstain from voting on Thursday, a decision he reached after consulting the village attorney, TIF attorney and a private attorney.
“I have a blonde and two little boys who come first in this guy’s world. That’s the only reason I will abstain,” Cox said.
He said the TIF controversies drive a wedge between him and the people he was elected to represent.
“I feel like the city voted me onto the board to do what’s best for Cambria,” Cox said. “What matters most to me is the village. It’s a way to revitalize the town as a whole.”
Does TIF meet legal conditions?
Illinois law sets conditions for areas to qualify as TIFs. First, officials have to ask if the property is likely to be developed without an extra incentive. The answer must be no to create a TIF in that area.
This is a point of controversy for many residents. Most of the people who have voiced concerns over the TIF believe property in Cambria would be developed without the incentives offered in a TIF district. However, developers Max Falmier and Paul Wood are both listed in inducement resolutions as needing TIF incentives to offset the cost of developments off Cambria Road and Noah Lane.
Carterville Mayor Brad Robinson credits Carterville school district with drawing new residents to Carterville and the surrounding Tri-C (Carterville, Crainville and Cambria) area. He believes that land in Cambria would be developed without TIF incentives because not many places outside Cambria are available for development.
Also, the area must be blighted or qualify to be a residential or industrial park conservation area. Conservation status has to do with the age, condition and occupancy of buildings.
According to the TIF proposal, Cambria has 792 structures over the age of 35 years. The village also has 66 dilapidated properties, 540 that show signs of deterioration, 12 with excessive vacancies, three that lack sanitary facilities, 29 that are overcrowded and 541 that have declining or static value.
A TIF district has to prove that 51 percent of its area is blighted. Many of those who oppose the TIF do not see Cambria as “blighted.” To be blighted, a property must meet stringent criteria, including those listed above.
Mayor Gottschalk said around 118 homes are vacant in the proposed TIF zone. The village would like to tear down vacant homes, but it costs $5,000 to $6,000 to tear down a home. Sale of the empty lot would bring about $1,200.
He would like to see the village use some of its early TIF funds to tear down some of those houses. After that, he would like to see sidewalks put in to the Dollar General Store to accommodate those with wheel chairs or scooters.
Cambria village board will vote on the TIF proposal at 4 p.m. Thursday in the community center gymnasium.