TIF funds help Monticello business expand

Kelly Finet of Kelly’s Accounting Service in Monticello is proud of the fact her business has grown every year since being formed in 1988.

But growing pains had put her at a crossroads, especially when cramming as many as 10 employees in a 1,500-square-foot building. Last spring, Finet decided something had to give but was having trouble finding a local spot in which to expand.

“I found myself on Sunday afternoons driving around looking, just looking” for potential spaces for a new location. That included a couple of county-owned spots: the former jail site and the annex building.

With the help of the City of Monticello and its Tax Increment Financing District, she opted to expand at her current location at 310 W. Washington St. The whirlwind building project that began in August and was finished by the end of 2012 doubled its square-footage, including more office space, a conference room, expanded reception area and dedicated storage room.

The city agreed to help by rebating some of the increased tax dollars that the project will create due to it’s larger assessed valuation. When TIF II was established in 2005, any new property tax dollars generated from that area for the next 23 years goes into the city TIF fund, which can be used for business incentives and infrastructure improvements.

“I love this project,” said city Director of Community Development Director Callie McFarland. She said it is not only a prototypical TIF project, but is one that helps out a well-respected business.

“People know her, people respect her,” said McFarland. “She’s part of the community, and people can see her grow from her existing location. So it’s not like we’re bringing an outside entity in and there is an unknown or uncertainty,”

The TIF agreement mandates that Kelly’s pay her property tax each year before netting any rebate, which is limited to 50 percent of what goes into the TIF fund and $20,000 total over the life of the TIF.

“This was written so that there is no exposure to taxpayers,” said City Superintendent Floyd Allsop, pointing out that there is no up-front cost to the city. Technically, the agreement allows for Kelly’s to receive TIF funds in the amount of $10,000 for engineering fees, $7,000 for utility work and $3,000 towards loan interest costs.

Less than a year ago, Finet had pretty much decided she would need to move her business, and is glad something could be worked out for her to remain at the location that had housed it since 1995.

“Callie was a huge help for me. She helped locate properties that could be available, and could put projected building sizes on other lots so I could see how the building would sit,” said Finet.

One stumbling block was the flood plain that runs near Kelly’s. Finet originally wanted to add on to the front, but would have to meet federal flood plain requirements, which can be a length and costly effort. Instead the 1,650-square foot addition is in an L-shape along the side and back of the current structure.

“I love the look of the building. I think it’s a nice addition; pleasing to the eye,” she added.

Even better than the look is the space it provides employees, allowing Finet to provide more hours to her 10 employees, especially during tax season.

“Everyone was really right on top of each other,” she said. “Now people have their own space.”

The project also allows Finet to show her Illini pride with a U of I-decorated conference room. Finet is a former middle hitter for the university’s volleyball team.

The storage area is also a big plus. Accountants now store fewer files in their offices, instead placing them in a more secure storage room.

There are a few finishing touches to the building that at one time housed the Pink Lady Laudramat, including the addition of historic photos and landscaping in the spring.

“It doesn’t help just one business,” points out McFarland of TIF projects. “If you’re bringing in jobs, you’re bringing in revenues, and it’s not just firsthand expense. It’s also helping the economy through those employees shopping, buying houses and so on.

TIF II encompasses a large area in Monticello, basically from one interstate interchange to the other, and also the downtown business district.

Double-edged sword
Other taxing bodies are sometimes not fond of TIF districts, since they divert the increase in tax dollars into the TIF fund. Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman calls them a “double-edged sword” for school districts.

“We want to encourage growth in the business portion of our district, buecause you would expect it to bring residential growth and people to our district,” said Zimmerman.

“We would love for the school district to have all the EAV (equalized assessed valuation) growth that comes from within the business TIF district, but there hasn’t been much growth, so it doesn’t hurt us too much.”
He said the biggest impact to the school district would be if a TIF project drew a large number of students to the district. A typical home usually does not generate enough tax dollars to cover the cost of educating two students.

Side-agreements are allowed with taxing bodies to alleviate such concerns. McFarland felt the city would be willing to draft one with the school if a TIF project brought in students.

TIF I set to expire
The 12-year TIF I that encompasses the north interchange of Interstate 72 is set to expire next year. It allows for TIF revenues to be used for infrastructure improvements only, and helped pay for the city’s new water tower.

The city expects about $68,500 to be generated for TIF I for the current fiscal year that ends in May. TIF II should generate about $120,000 over the same time period.

Allsop realizes there are criticisms of such districts, but says it’s about the only carrot the city can offer to existing businesses as well as to attract new ones.

“The days of people doing things out of the kindness of their heart is over with. When it comes to incentives, this is all we have. We don’t have an enterprise zone, and people are looking for incentives.”

 

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