6 Corners SSA chair wants agency to rely less on property tax revenue
by BRIAN NADIG
One of the founders of the Six Corners Association objects to a plan to increase its 2016 budget by about $60,000 and hopes that the organization will start to rely more on grants and other funding sources instead seeking increases in the special service area property tax that funds most of its activities.
Six Corners Special Service Area Commission chairman Joe Angelastri, who owns City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., said that other special service areas, such as in Lincoln Square, have kept their tax rates low and that Six Corners should reduce its reliance on taxes. “We need to make a plan,” Angelastri said a July 16 community meeting on the commission’s 2016 budget.
The commission voted 3-1 on July l7 to approve a budget of $288,200, up from $226,461 in 2015, with Angelastri casting the lone dissenting vote. The budget requires an increase in the tax rate from 0.52 percent to 0.685 percent that property owners will pay on the commission’s portion of the property tax bill for commercial properties in the special service area, which covers about a 2-block radius around the intersection of Milwaukee and Cicero avenues and Irving Park Road.
The annual special service area tax on Angelastri’s property will increase from $727 to 957, about 53 percent of which goes to the Irving-Cicero Tax Increment Financing District. A taxing body in a TIF district receives only the amount of taxes generated by the equalized assessed valuation of the property at the time the TIF district was created, and any incremental revenue increase goes to the TIF district, which a municipality can use for infrastructure improvements.
For the past 11 years the commission has hired the nonprofit community association to use the funds to pay for services that beautify and market the commercial district. There are 53 special service areas in the city, and a new special service area has been proposed for the Jefferson Park commercial district.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said that the commission is not at the point where it can reduce its tax budget. “You need personnel to apply for grants and look for other sources,” he said.
The association’s efforts to market the area to leasing agents and to improve the appearance of the area have helped attract some of the 25 new businesses which have opened there, Arena said. “It would not be if there were no resources and active engagement with the business community,” he said.
The commission’s budget calls expenditures of $117,000 on public way aesthetics, $84,300 on personnel, $32,900 on management costs, $40,500 on customer attraction, $6,000 on safety programs, $5,500 on business development and $2,000 on sustainability services, to pay for such things as bike corrals. Some of the funds will be used to maintain and replace the trees, bushes and plants which the city installed 5 years ago as part of a streetscaping project in the Six Corners shopping district.
“It’s getting us to the place where we become a major shopping center and destination,” Arena’s economic development director Anthony Alfano said of the budget.
Association interim executive director Kelli Wefenstette said that the budget is based on comments that the association has received from business owners, including the need to address a homeless problem in the area. Wefenstette said that the association plans to increase its funding for a social agency that aids the homeless from $3,120 to $6,000.
Several business owners at the meeting questioned the need for the association to spend $117,000 on landscaping and other public way improvements and said that the association should focus on getting empty storefronts filled in order to generate more foot traffic for the shopping district. “I’m not seeing any difference,” a merchant said of the effectiveness of the plants outside her business.
“It’s to start changing perceptions and to give people a reason to be here,” Wefenstette said of the landscaping. “Even if it is just trees, it shows that someone cares about this place.”