Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Village president: TID will be biggest issue
How closing district will ease tax burden, possibly allow building a new hall

by Steve Targo

May 09, 2013

Antti
Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series about Bill Antti, Genoa City's new village president. The first part, a look at Antti and his philosophies about village politics, appeared in the May 2 edition.

GENOA CITY — People complain about the village's tax rate being too high, yet some village officials — including Village President Bill Antti — are looking at possibly replacing the village hall.

How do you build a new municipal building, and a community center without increasing the tax burden?

In an April 25 interview, Antti said they may close the village's Tax Incremental District, or TID. He said this will be the biggest issue he expects to face during his two-year term as village president.

But the question of a new village hall factors in. Antti said although the current building "isn't adequate," he doesn't want officials to jump into replacing it without knowing how much the TID closure will reduce the local tax rate.

"I don't want anybody to see a tax rate increase just so we can do something to the village hall," Antti said.

But closing the TID may help.

With the TID closed, more tax revenue will go into the village's general fund, which is what it uses to pay for police, fire, road and other municipal services.

Antti explained how the TID factors into the financial bind the village has found itself in on sites.google.com/site/gcvillagehall, a website created by the village hall subcommittee.

"Our village general operating budget has suffered because of the economy, the TID and a reduction of shared revenue, (which is) the amount of state income tax given to the village for operating costs," Antti stated. "We have more than doubled our population since the establishment of the TID, but have been using the same tax base to provide the services for everyone."

So theoretically, if the village closes the TID, there should be a reduction in the local tax rate.

But Antti said they don't know yet how much, or even when exactly they will close it.

He said they expect it to close this year, but the board wants to have TID expert Phil Cosson, of Ehlers and Associates, talk about it at a future meeting.

TID: Good and bad

So what is a TID, exactly?

The general definition, according to Wikipedia: A financial tool to use future tax revenue to finance current improvements.

On April 25, Antti said the TID was created in the mid 1990s.

He said the current problem isn't with the TID itself but the size of it.

"We have 44 percent of the village in a TID, (which allows) you to borrow money to improve your infrastructure," Antti said. "The taxes collected in the district go to pay off loans that were borrowed to fund these improvements."

Some of the improvements in Genoa City were sewer and water service extensions and road projects.

"The (TID) money goes to pay those loans off — which, of course, is a good thing," Antti said.

The problem, as he stated on the village hall website, is how this limited the tax revenue Genoa City could have otherwise used to provide services to that more-than-doubled population.

"We have been providing services using the property taxes collected from 56 percent of the village — the portion of the village that isn't within the TID," Antti stated.

On April 25, he said the issue with that is not that 56 percent of the village's property tax revenue is paying off the infrastructure improvement loans, "but when you're trying to fund a police department and things like that."

Then, add to that the idea of building a new village hall.

But on the website, Antti stated his prediction.

"By closing the TID, we should see a reduction in our property taxes throughout the village and still be able to repay a bond used to finance a new village hall."

Still fact-finding

In a March 29 interview, Trustee Karen Bullock — who is heading the village hall subcommittee — said there are numerous concerns with the village hall. Some of them are air quality, asbestos, a leaky roof and lack of space for village departments headquartered in it. This includes the police department, which has no way to quarantine evidence. Village records also are being stored in the basement, where the asbestos is.

On April 25, Antti said the first floor of the building is about 3,200 square feet, with about 900 square feet in the basement that is usable "and I guess 'usable' would be in quotes."

"I guess my feeling right now is, if everything were perfect within the current village hall, it still wouldn't be adequate to serve the needs of the community," he said.

But the committee is still looking at facts. Members, including Antti, have visited other municipal buildings throughout the area. Bullock said they were asked to draw what they perceive to be an idea floor plan for a Genoa City village hall.

Nothing has been officially decided regarding a new village hall, meaning construction isn't starting any time soon.

Still, it appears village officials know it's going to come down to cost.

Antti said ideally, he wants village taxpayers to see a rate reduction because of closing the TID.

But, suppose the village tax rate is $10 per $1,000 of equalized value, Antti said, and closing the TID cuts that rate down to $5. He said he would want the proposed village hall project to cause a minimal increase, if any, "to, say, $7."