After carefully considering the ramifications of the Tax Increment Financing initiative, Riverside’s Economic Development Commission would like to formally and enthusiastically support the establishment of the proposed TIF District in Riverside.

Tax Increment Financing or TIF is not a revolutionary concept. It is an economic development tool utilized successfully by countless municipalities like Riverside, including Geneva, Lake Zurich, Highland Park, River Forest and Oakbrook, to act as a catalyst for revitalization of deteriorating commercial areas and business districts.

The ultimate goal of the TIF is to generate badly needed incremental sales tax and real estate tax revenue for the village. The mandate of the Economic Development Commission is to promote commercial development and grow the village’s real estate and sales tax revenue base. Our task has been made increasingly difficult by the deteriorating condition of the buildings within the central business district, the lack of inducements at our disposal to entice new businesses into town and, perhaps most importantly, the perception that Riverside is not a pro business community.

The establishment of a TIF in Riverside would begin to counteract all of these hurdles in addition to helping defray the cost of many desired and needed infrastructure, landscaping and other capital improvements within the TIF boundaries.

Over the last several months, there has been much discussion regarding the TIF. While much of this discussion is healthy, throughout this dialogue several misconceptions have developed or been promulgated. The EDC would like to set the record straight.

The TIF is not a tax on property owners who reside or own buildings within or outside the TIF boundaries. The TIF is not a hidden tax that will trigger the need for a tax referendum for our schools. The EDC will rely on the leadership of the school districts affected to protect the interests of the schools, and will condition its support for the TIF on the support of the Joint Review Board. However, the EDC formally encourages the Village Board of Trustees to evaluate the inclusion of the Central School and Hauser Junior High School properties within the TIF boundary.

The TIF will not require the village to issue a general obligation bond. Under the pay-as-you-go approach advocated by the Board of Trustees, no bonds to benefit developers will be issued by the village.

The TIF is not a handout or slush fund for developers. Under the pay-as-you-go approach, developers are guaranteed nothing. They will only get TIF dollars if their redevelopment generates significantly more tax revenue dollars for the village through growth in Equalized Assessed Valuations. The EDC stands ready to offer its assistance in the evaluation of any proposed redevelopment project.

The TIF does not enable developers to circumvent all of the village’s existing zoning ordinances, building code ordinances and permitting requirements. Development within the TIF district will be subject to all of the village’s current stringent requirements, which insure that the character of our village is maintained.

The TIF is not a black-and-white issue and therefore does not lend itself to a referendum.

The village board has repeatedly stated that it will not use the TIF to encroach on our green spaces. Guthrie Park and Swan Pond are included within the TIF district so the village has the flexibility to use TIF dollars to maintain and enhance these treasured green spaces. Nonetheless, the EDC formally encourages that the TIF boundary be reconsidered to include only portions of Swan Pond necessary to 1) maintain the WPA wall and steps, and 2) improve drainage from flooding.

The village board has repeatedly stated that it will not use eminent domain if and when it decides to acquire residential properties located within the TIF boundaries. Accordingly, the EDC formally encourages the Redevelopment Plan be revised to include language memorializing the position of the Trustees to not use the TIF increment for purposes of purchasing residential property through eminent domain.

The proposed TIF is not without a plan. However, the EDC encourages the further development, clarification and prioritization of the “menu of items” included in the Transit-Oriented Development Plan. Furthermore, the EDC formally encourages the Village Board of Trustees to detail and prioritize the infrastructure costs described in the Redevelopment Plan.

We would like to commend the Board of Trustees for being proactive in dealing with the difficult financial operating environment the village is sure to face in the not too distant future.

As the condition of the central business district has deteriorated, the village’s operating budget has developed an escalating and alarming dependency on revenue from residential real estate taxes.

If this trend continues unchecked, the Board of Trustees will have no choice but to seek a tax increase via referendum or to cut back on already bare bone municipal services. This is a reality that is evident to anybody who has taken the time to study the village’s budget forecasts.

To their credit, the village board has done their homework and identified an alternative course of action. After careful consideration and study, the village board has come to the conclusion that a TIF is the best tool the village has at its disposal to strengthen the financial health of the village and obviate the need for a future tax increase referendum or cut in village services. As concerned village residents and Economic Development Commission members, we wholeheartedly agree.

The letter was signed by members of the Riverside Economic Development Commission, including Chairman Joseph Pilewski, Merrill Becker, Paul Borysow, Charlie Corbisiero, Mike Sedivy, Matt Strubbe and Jack Wilk.