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Local News

Joliet eyes expansion of downtown business tax

JOLIET – City officials hope to extend a special taxing district downtown to nearby commercial corridors.

If expanded, the property tax of 95 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would be added to commercial property on Cass, Collins and Chicago streets approaching the downtown business district.

Expanding the tax will help pay for future downtown development, including redesign of Chicago Street and the construction of a new plaza, city officials said.

Artificial field turf at Silver Cross Field, an addition aimed at making the city-owned stadium available for more sports and different events, could also be financed with money from the extended tax, they said.

City Manager Jim Hock said the money would also be used to initiate economic development efforts on the east side.

“This helps facilitate those communities on Cass Street and Collins Street and more with economic development activities beyond strictly downtown,” Hock told the City Council at a workshop session Monday when the plan was presented.

A list of plans for the funds include matching grants for businesses in the corridors and streetscape improvements. But most of the planned uses appear aimed at downtown, including land acquisition for parking facilities and modern parking meters.

The city estimates extending the tax to new areas would add about $230,000 to the $400,000 the tax generates now.

The plan is for the council to vote on Sept. 20 whether to move forward on the proposal. If the council approves, a public hearing would be held the next month. The council would not give final approval until December, but that would leave time to put the tax on next year’s property tax bills.

The council in October 2015 unanimously voted to drop a similar proposal to create special service areas in business districts throughout Joliet to fund city economic development efforts. The Joliet Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry opposed the plan.

The special service area downtown was created in 1980 to fund economic development at a time when stores were leaving the traditional business district and moving to the new indoor malls.

The downtown taxing district is up for renewal this year and would expire in August if the city does not keep it in place.

Economic Development Director Steve Jones said the proposed extension of the tax to adjacent commercial corridors reflects the connection those business districts have to the downtown area.

“If we were to get improvements for our downtown and not do anything for these fringe areas, would we be as successful as we could be?” he said to the council.

Jones said city staff would begin meeting with business property owners in the proposed areas to discuss the proposal.

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