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Park Ridge City Council considering new tax to pay for Uptown debt

<p>The Shops of Uptown was one of the major components of Park Ridge's redevelopment project for the area. Now, the city is trying to find ways to pay for debt from the project. &nbsp;| &nbsp;Jennifer Johnson/Sun-Times Media</p>

The Shops of Uptown was one of the major components of Park Ridge's redevelopment project for the area. Now, the city is trying to find ways to pay for debt from the project.  |  Jennifer Johnson/Sun-Times Media

Park Ridge’s ongoing Uptown Tax Increment Financing debt will tie into the City Council’s discussion of this year’s property-tax levy and whether residents will see increases in how much they pay.

Aldermen could consider not passing a property-tax abatement ordinance this year related to the Uptown TIF debt, allowing Cook County to levy a separate property tax to pay off the debt from bonds that were issued to fund improvements within the Uptown area.

Park Ridge Director of Finance Kent Oliven plans to talk to the City Council about the Cook County abatement ordinance and other options for addressing the TIF debt during an Oct. 28 Committee of the Whole meeting. The purpose of the discussion, he said is to “understand what the city does by passing abatements and what their options are.”

Each year, the city has approved a tax abatement ordinance preventing Cook County from levying property taxes specifically to pay for debt from the city’s Uptown TIF general obligation bonds. Instead, the city has used monies from its general fund, which includes property-tax dollars, to pay the debt.

“By abating those bonds, you are saying, ‘We have another way of paying,’” Oliven explained.

The Uptown TIF District fund is supposed to be covering the annual debt payments, but it has so far failed to generate the property-tax revenue needed to do so.

The general fund is covering approximately $1 million in TIF debt each year, Oliven said. Mayor David Schmidt has cited the debt in his decision to veto a host of expenditures over the last few years.

Fifth Ward Ald. Dan Knight, who chairs discussions of the council’s Finance Committee, said he had asked for the discussion about the property-tax abatement withdrawal from city staff. Asked which option he supports, Knight replied that he has not yet decided, adding, “I lean toward some full or partial withdrawal of the abatement. Taxes probably should have been assessed all along and we need to do something because of the damage (the TIF debt) is doing to the general fund.”

The Oct. 28 discussion will take place at City Hall, 505 Butler Place, during the Finance Committee portion of the meeting which begins at 7:30 p.m. and will include time for public comments.

Separate from the tax abatement ordinance is the city’s 2013 property-tax levy, which the city must approve by the year’s end. Over the last several years the city has typically increased taxes between 2 and 5 percent.

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