Cary residents, District 26 voice concerns on proposed TIF district

Public hearing for TIF district was held on Tuesday, July 18

Traffic streams through the intersection of Route 14 and West Main Street in Cary on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. The village of Cary is considering a new tax increment financing district in its downtown corridor to help spur new development in the oldest part of its town.

Cary residents and business owners showed up in numbers this week to express their concerns with what the latest proposed TIF district could mean for their homes and organizations.

This public hearing held on Tuesday was one of the final meetings in a process that has spanned over a year now.

When asked repeatedly, the village board held a firm stance that there are no plans to tear down any homes or businesses. They said that Cary’s residents and business owners will have the choice if a developer wants to come in and offer a price for their property.

A TIF is a financial tool that allows villages to earmark certain property taxes for development in a specific area, including through incentive packages for developers or for new infrastructure or public amenities within the area.

In the past, Cary has established two separate TIF Districts, with the earliest established in 1997 and dissolving in 2022, and the other established in 2006.

Cary is considering creating it’s third TIF district, this one along Route 14 from the Fox River to Cary-Algonquin Road, zoning out most of its Route 14 and downtown corridor.

The boundaries of the newly proposed TIF in Cary, which could go up for a vote in August 2023.

We are not going to be Arlington Heights, we are not going to be Mount Prospect; we are going to be Cary and do what’s best for Cary.

—  Cary Mayor Mark Kownick

Cary School District 26 had multiple representatives speak as the district showed concerns with the amount of tax dollars that it could be losing over the TIF’s duration, which typically lasts 23 years.

District 26 Superintendent Brandon White said that the district potentially could lose $8 million in tax revenue that goes toward the schools.

“As an educator for over 20 years, I’ve been driven by the moral purpose that if you make decisions based on the fundamental goal of doing what’s best for kids, you can’t go wrong,” White said during the hearing.

He said that this estimated loss of tax revenue could be even more problematic if student enrollment increased due to the TIF district.

“Even if it’s half of that, that’s still impacting the education that we’re able to provide our students,” White said, “and especially if enrollment increased.”

District 26 representatives emphasized that the loss of tax dollars could put the schools at risk of a situation similar to 2010, when they had to make drastic changes due to lack of funding.

Jason Janczak, a District 26 board member, said that the schools currently are in a stable financial situation, but the TIF could change that.

“I worry that the loss of an estimated $8 million will push Cary schools back into those dark days,” Janczak said during the meeting. “That means large classes, eliminated specials and a revolving door of teachers.”

In addition, many people at the hearing emphasized their concerns with Cary losing that “small town” feel because of the TIF. With multiple people saying that they do not want Cary to end up like the larger communities in the northwest suburbs who used the TIF mechanism.

Cary Mayor Mark Kownick addressed that notion after hearing from multiple concerned residents.

“We’re not going to be Arlington Heights, we’re not going to be Mount Prospect,” Kownick emphasized during the hearing. “We are going to be Cary and do what’s right for Cary.”

The village board is set to vote on the TIF by Aug. 15.

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