DECATUR — It had been more than 70 years since a Decatur mayor served as president of the Illinois Municipal League, the statewide organization that advocates for the state’s cities and towns in Springfield. But that changed last week with Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe’s ascension to the top role, in which she plans to advocate
DECATUR — It had been more than 70 years since a Decatur mayor served as president of the Illinois Municipal League, the statewide organization that advocates for the state’s cities and towns in Springfield.
But that changed last week with Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe’s ascension to the top role, in which she plans to advocate for pension reform and help cities navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moore Wolfe added that fighting back against unfunded mandates from state government and maintaining the share of tax revenue that flows to municipalities will also be key priorities.
“So, really making sure that we have a presence in Springfield and that our lawmakers understand the implications of what they’re doing,” Moore Wolfe said. “… If cities aren’t doing well, the state of Illinois is not going to do well.”
Moore Wolfe said that beyond getting through COVID, a challenge for the organization will be “learning how to live with COVID.”
And then there are longstanding issues such as police and fire pensions, which have been consuming greater shares of municipal budgets each passing year. Moore Wolfe said the solution isn’t at the local level.
“We’ve made some strides in recent years, but the current pension system we have is unsustainable,” Moore Wolfe said. “It’s continuing to take so much of our municipalities’ budgets across the board. We just can’t keep going this way because we won’t be able to afford police and firefighters.”
Moore Wolfe said she plans to take advantage of the relatively short drive to Springfield to advocate on behalf of the group when the legislature is in session.
As part of her responsibilities as president, Moore Wolfe will welcome the IML’s board to Decatur next summer for a series of meetings.
“It’s our opportunity to really show off Macon County and what we have to offer,” Moore Wolfe said. “And people who haven’t been here in a long time don’t know what to expect, so I’m very excited about having that chance to show people what Decatur’s made of.”
Moore Wolfe has been mayor since 2015. She previously served as a city councilwoman from 2009 to 2015.
TIF sunset, enterprise zone change to be considered Monday
Meanwhile, the Decatur City Council will consider an ordinance Monday that will allow the city’s first tax-increment financing district to sunset.
The ordinance would dissolve the Southeast Plaza TIF, which takes in properties east of Illinois 121 between Evergreen Court and just south of Fitzgerald Road.
The TIF was the city’s first when it was created in 1997. Decatur has since added six others across the city.
TIF districts are tools used by local governments to leverage future gains in property tax revenue to attract private investment to blighted areas in need of redevelopment.
Though cities have the option to renew TIF districts an additional 12 years with approval from state lawmakers, assistant city manager Jon Kindseth said the expiration “can’t come soon enough.”
He said the TIF served its purpose as the properties went from being essentially barren of development to containing several revenue-generating businesses, including an AMC movie theatre, a Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham hotel and several restaurants. The “Southeast Place” residential subdivision was also built there in recent years.
“There were some real developments there,” Kindseth said. “That particular project area was largely a farm field before they started. Today, there’s a movie theater, a hotel, a number of restaurants, there’s an entire residential subdivision.”
According to city documents, the equalized assessed value within the district increased from $127,719 in 1997 to $3.6 million present day. This will generate an additional $300,000 annually for taxing bodies.
The council will also consider an ordinance amending the Decatur Macon County Enterprise Zone that will allow developers of multi-unit housing developments to access economic incentives.
An enterprise zone is an economic development tool that exempts properties within from paying sales tax on construction costs.
Commercial and industrial developments have taken advantage if the tax benefits over the years, but the city believes the proposed amendment will serve as a similar economic driver to encourage and incentivize reinvestment into older multi-unit housing developments.
Kindseth said there is a specific multi-unit project where the developer is looking to access tax incentives.
“The amendment is written to be able to facilitate that, but also to limit it so that it doesn’t open the door … to subsidize single-family residential subdivisions,” he said.
The incentive would only be available for multi-unit residential projects with 10 or more units. A minimum investment of $50,000 is required per unit to qualify.
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