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Local News

Joliet council votes Tuesday on expanded downtown tax

JOLIET – The city council is slated to vote next week on the proposal to expand a downtown property tax into neighboring business corridors.

The expansion of the downtown special service area would increase property taxes 8.6 percent in what is described as the Cass, Collins and South Chicago street corridors.

City officials say the $230,000 raised in 2017 by the tax expansion would be used on a number of projects in those corridors and downtown. The most notable project mentioned in connection with the tax is artificial turf at Silver Cross Field.

But Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said the city will be looking for projects to do in the new corridors.

“We should have some projects ready to go to show people we did mean what we said,” Jones said. “It’s my intention to have some meetings with people in the corridors to ask, ‘How do you think we should spend the money?’ ”

The special service area expansion first has to be approved by the city council, which is scheduled to vote on it Tuesday.

But council members so far have not indicated objections to the plan, and there has been little opposition from property owners.

Jones said one objection has been filed out of the 1,224 properties that will be added to the special service area.

That objection was filed by Ken Clymer, owner of the Certified Warehouse Foods store on Jackson Street.

Clymer said he expects the tax to cost his store an additional $1,500 a year “and I don’t know what I’m going to get out of it.”

Clymer and some other business owners have questioned what benefit the tax will provide in the adjacent corridors.

“I’m over here on Jackson Street,” he said. “They want to use it to market downtown. How is any improvement downtown going to benefit my grocery store?”

The inclusion of Certified Warehouse Foods in the special service area indicates how the new special service area would extend beyond the businesses lining Collins, Cass and South Chicago streets.

“I think we were included because they used a broad brush and needed to be contiguous,” he said.

There have been some concerns about residential properties being included in the expanded special service area.

Jones said the area includes some properties zoned commercial but used for residences. But staff plans to develop a rebate program that could be used to offset the tax for owner-occupied residential properties.

The city has held an open house and public hearing on the proposal.

The existing special service area is used to fund the City Center Partnership, which promotes the downtown business district. City officials have said the expansion of the area will be used for economic development for the business corridors that lead into downtown.

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SPECIAL SERVICE AREA

The area now: Downtown

The expansion: Cass, Collins and South Chicago street business corridors

The tax: 95 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or an 8.6 percent increase on property taxes

The revenue: $400,000 now and an additional $230,000 in 2017 if the tax is approved

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