JOLIET – Businesses want to know more about a proposal to create special taxing districts, and city officials are set to meet Thursday with representatives from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry to discuss it.
City officials last week unveiled a plan to create several Special Service Areas around Joliet starting in two areas as soon as next year. The SSAs would create new property tax revenues that would be put back into business districts to foster economic development, city officials said.
News of the plan has generated phone calls to the Chamber from people who want to know what is going on. The Chamber received about a dozen calls from businesses, President Mary Jaworski said.
"Mostly just questions," she said of the nature of the calls.
Jaworski said she and other Chamber representatives will find out more Thursday when they meet with Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and City Manager Jim Hock.
"It's mostly a fact-finding mission," Jaworski said. "A lot of people don't even know how an SSA works."
SSAs create special taxing districts for designated areas. A special property tax applied only to that district raises money to be used for the area.
Such districts have been used to fund street improvements in neighborhoods. An SSA was created for downtown Joliet years ago and is used to fund the City Center Partnership, which provides incentives to aid business development and holds special events, including Race Face Rally, aimed at promoting the downtown business district.
Hock last week said the city is trying to start two SSAs next year. One would be along Jefferson Street. The other would be in a large section of the south end of the city, including CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, Hollywood Casino and Chicagoland Speedway.
Councilman Pat Mudron said at the end of the meeting where the discussion took place that the SSA plan appeared to be a good idea that would be accepted by the business community. But Mudron said Tuesday he has received several phone calls from business people who question the plan, and he has begun to question it himself.
Mudron said other business districts may not have the same common cause as the downtown business area.
"My thought on what I need on my end of the Jefferson Street corridor as opposed to what they need on the other end might be different," Mudron said.
A proposed SSA must first be presented at a public hearing, according to a memo distributed by Hock. Businesses in the district would have the opportunity to stop the SSA with a petition drive.
Some other areas proposed by Hock include the Louis Joliet Mall area, Route 59, Larkin Avenue and Ruby Street.
IF JOLIET CREATES NEW SPECIAL SERVICE AREAS
• The city would define the boundaries of the SSAs, the maximum tax rate and how long they would exist.
• The city would hold public hearings on the SSAs.
• Objectors in a proposed SSA could petition within 60 days after the public hearing to stop it. They would need signatures from at least 50 percent of property owners of record and 51 percent of electors residing in the proposed SSA.