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Government

Elmhurst, District 205 disagree on TIF issues

Elmhurst City Manager Jim Grabowski (second from left) responds to Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 board member John McDonough at the Nov. 27 TIF Joint Review Board Meeting at City Hall.
Elmhurst City Manager Jim Grabowski (second from left) responds to Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 board member John McDonough at the Nov. 27 TIF Joint Review Board Meeting at City Hall.

ELMHURST – City of Elmhurst, Elmhurst Park District and Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 officials and staff met Nov. 27 to discuss the effectiveness and status of Elmhurst's tax increment financing districts in their annual Joint Review Board required meeting.

When it came to Elmhurst's TIF districts one, four and five, the school district and the city had heated discussions in light of disagreements over a 2004 intergovernmental agreement and the city's methods of providing the school district funding through the release of surplus funding from TIFs.

City Manager Jim Grabowski bantered with school board member John McDonough about the expenditures and budget, as well as whether the agreement was a legal settlement. McDonough said the city has broken promises related to compensation through TIF surpluses. Alderman Mark Mulliner said the intergovernmental agreement has been upheld as a model agreement across the state.

Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley has invited the Board of Education to have a public meeting, which board President Shannon Ebner has declined.

"I think that it's important when it comes to some of these big decisions, that we do work together," Morley said in a phone interview Dec. 5. "I do think that by working together productively, both the city and the school district can provide better services and save the taxpayer money. But since we are both elected officials on elected boards, it is my preference that we have those meetings publicly so that the residents can hear the conversation, understand the thought process and participate."

The TIF Joint Review Board meetings are held annually to review the status of TIFs, and the next meeting will be in late 2018, Elmhurst Communications Manager Kassondra Schref said in an email Dec. 7.

"Overall, TIFs have been very, very productive for the city of Elmhurst, resulting in increased tax revenue for all taxing bodies," Morley said. "It is one of the most significant tools we have to promote development in the city of Elmhurst, and I think that our TIF districts in town will continue to be successful, to the benefit of all residents in the city of Elmhurst."

District 205 has a $2.1 million operating deficit in its newbudget, and officials have said the city of Elmhurst is partly to blame because of a dispute over tax increment financing funding.

Superintendent David Moyer said at the meeting the district's attorney will likely reach out to the city's attorneys to discuss the issues at stake.

"There are some very real financial challenges that we're facing, and I understand that we're supposed to be all in this together, and that would be my goal as we move forward with some of these conversations," Moyer said.

He said the district's primary interest is to have a commitment that what the city has indicated for the district will come to fruition so that the district can plan accordingly and reduce the need to use its fund balance.

"This is not as much about disputing people's personal opinions and history, as it is the fact that there are some very real pressing things that we are dealing with, which is why our board feels as strongly as it does about this particular issue as it relates to TIF One," Moyer said.

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