MAHOMET — A resolution and letter to support extending by 12 years Mahomet’s east end tax increment financing (TIF) district was debated for more than 45 minutes at Tuesday’s regular Mahomet-Seymour board of education meeting.
Ultimately, the move was approved with board President Max McComb, Vice President Lori Larson; Secretary Merle Giles; and members Jeremy Henrichs and Ken Keefe voting “yes.”
Board members Meghan Hennesy and Colleen Schultz voted “no.”
In the school board packet for the meeting, it was stated by way of explanation: “The proposal to extend the east end TIF was first publicly introduced in a joint meeting between the Village of Mahomet Board of Trustees and the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education on September 4, 2019.
“A special meeting of the Board of Education was held on October 15, 2019 to have a more in- depth discussion about the extension of the TIF.
“The overall rationale of extending the TIF is as follows:
n To provide funds to build the infrastructure associated with the development of the property the school district owns to the south of Middletown Prairie Elementary, i.e. roads, water, drainage, sewer.
n The TIF extension would also provide funds to extend South Mahomet Road east to Prairieview Road once the proposed railroad crossing is completed over South Mahomet Road.”
Superintendent Lindsey Hall’s recommendation was that the board approve the resolution and letter of support.
Village of Mahomet officials were present at the meeting to answer school board members’ questions.
During discussion, Village President Sean Widener said the extension — which can only be done by the state legislature — has no change in terms from the existing TIF.
“Everybody in this community should be happy (with this TIF district),” Widener said, “because that increased value for everybody.
“We’re looking for the win-win ... for the entire community; not just the village or the school district, but everybody. This checks all the boxes,” he added.
Schultz was one who expressed concern about the planned extension of South Mahomet Road east to Prairieview Road; that would mean the thoroughfare cuts across Mahomet-Seymour school district property south of Middletown Prairie.
“There’s always been a road planned in this area,” Widener said.
McComb asked about the timetable for the building of South Mahomet Road to the east.
“We’re looking at probably 2020, 2021 design, 2022, 2023, construction,” Widener said.
Patrick Brown, village administrator, said in response to board discussion that the route to get traffic from south Mahomet to the east side of the village would be valuable immediately.
“I think there’s people that want better access right now,” Brown said. “The road is needed now. So you asked before, ‘Why can’t this wait?’ — we want to get started not just because of cost increases that are going to keep happening but we want to get started as early as next summer (2021).”
McComb and Giles both spoke about the positives of the TIF.
“I think we have outsized benefit to the district with commercial development, because if we can spur that in any way, we end up with dollars sooner than we would otherwise have (them),” Giles said as part of his reasoning for supporting the TIF extension. “The upside for the school district is huge if we can get commercial development paying us the other half of those taxes that we get to keep. We get none of that money if we don’t help this happen.”
Like Schultz, Hennesy expressed concern about a busy roadway going through school district property south of Middletown Prairie’s campus.
“All I’ve heard for the last 20 minutes is ‘major thoroughfare right through property where we’re going to have kids.’ I don’t know how to get past that concern,” she said. “We’re about to put a road through a piece of property with no idea of what else we want to put there, and it sounds like it’s going to be a major road, when we got rid of Sangamon because it was too close to busy roads.
“I can’t figure out how to make these pieces of information work in this scenario when we couldn’t make it work in the other scenario,” Hennesy said.
Giles said the two situations are different.
“And to be (specific, Sangamon was a) landlocked spot on a state highway,” he said. “That’s not the same as a road going through this project.
“I’m pro-development,” Giles said.
Before her “no” vote, Schultz said she is of two minds about the issue, understanding both the village’s point of view and the benefits of the TIF for the school district.
“But if you look at it from the perspective of the school district which we took a vow to do, it just doesn’t make sense,” Schultz said. “It’s just not in our best interest. We are giving up things that we could have that we need.
“And I understand how much everyone else wants this to happen but they want it to happen at the expense of our kids and teachers,” she said.
She then referenced how funds are handled via a TIF. It was noted during the meeting that the school district might miss out on some tax dollars but pick up other funds with the way TIFs work.
Giles interjected, “Colleen, I still don’t get that.”
McComb disagreed with Schultz.
“I just don’t agree with that,” McComb said. “I respect it, but I don’t agree with that.”
Larson said, “I appreciate the dialogue and discussion.”