City council denies TIF request

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CLINTON — The city council Tuesday listened to but ultimately denied a request from business owner Doug Graves to use TIF funds for the building housing his store.

Graves, owner of Graves’ Stationers, had been trying to access TIF funds to install a new roof on the building, which he said leaks severely.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts originally were developed to allow municipalities to use incremental taxes generated by increased property values as incentives to business owners and developers.  The goal was to improve commercial and business neighborhoods that were considered blighted areas.

Graves had previously been denied by the city for TIF funds.  Mayor Roger Cyrulik said Tuesday that the city had asked the DeWItt County Development Council Board if they had funds that could help Graves.  

The DCDC board reported that they do not maintain funds for those purposes.

“I appreciate what the mayor said,” Graves told the council.  “I talked to Scott Baum, and what they (DCDC) have available they can’t utilize for what I’m needing.”

Graves said he felt the language in the TIF district guidelines and his “contributions to the Clinton economy” qualified him to receive TIF funds for the purpose he described.

He said in a response he received from the mayor, Cyrulik told him TIF funds had been used primarily for the façade grant program.

Graves cited the Magill House, the former Spurgeon’s building and the new Save-A-Lot store as recipients of TIF funds.  Two of those projects, Magill House and Spurgeon’s received new roofs.  Magill House is owned by the DeWitt County Restoration Association; the Spurgeon’s location is now privately owned.

Commissioner Tom Edmunds pointed out that TIF funds used in the Save-A-Lot project were not used for construction purposes but primarily for site acquisition.

Graves said the TIF district language did not specify funds should be used for facades but for “utilizing funds for rehabilitation, reconstruction, repair or remodeling for existing private buildings or fixtures.”

He said the one prohibition was against the use of funds for construction of a private business.

Graves said he was not against the use of TIF districts but felt that as an established local business was entitled to benefit from the program.  He said he had performed repairs to the roof of his building within the past 18 months, but had been denied payments by his insurance company because of the age of the building.

“Without these funds, my building will become another condemned property the city has to fix.”

The city developed the façade grant program using TIF funds but does not have such a program for other specific uses.  Graves said the TIF act did not specify facades and he pointed to the more generalized language used with regard to the use of funds.

Edmunds said Magill House and Spurgeon’s were buildings the city owned at the time TIF funds were used to repair those structures.

“Which makes it different than anything else,” Edmunds said.

The city sold the Spurgeon’s building at a loss after work was performed using TIF funds, which Edmunds said was sometimes done in hopes of creating a viable business.

“You want to maintain the integrity of the Square, and I understand that,” Graves said.  

Edmunds said broadening the scope of the façade program to include roofs could burden the program, particularly since the TIF II district has since expired and TIF IV does not yet generate sufficient incremental revenue.

Edmunds also said the city uses TIF funds based on what the statute allows.

Graves suggested the decisions were primarily at the discretion of the city and said he was disappointed.