Fire Department, Schools to Share New Tax in Illinois

City leaders on Tuesday agreed to give the Fire Department and local schools two-thirds of a half-cent sales tax they'll collect from the proposed Shoppes at St. Clair Square.

Just don't ask either party to be all too happy about it.

The City Council was reluctant to hand over tax money beyond what the Fire Department and local schools already collect from the site at North Illinois Street and Lincoln Highway. The Fire Department and local schools didn't want to limit the potential of what they could collect in the future.

"It wasn't exactly what they wanted and it isn't exactly what we wanted, but, personally, I think it's fair," said Ward 1 Alderman Gil Klein, who voted to approve the agreement.

The new sales tax means consumers will pay an additional 50 cents in taxes for every $100 worth of merchandise they buy at the Shoppes at St. Clair Square, with the exception of merchandise purchased at the proposed Barnes & Noble bookstore.

The parties involved have been negotiating the agreement for the past three months. It started when the Fire Department, Belleville Township High School District 201 and Pontiac-William Holliday School District 105 threatened to sue over the creation of a tax-increment financing district.

City leaders last month created the district at the Shoppes at St. Clair Square to pay for $5 million in roads, lights and parking lots at the site. The funds would come from future property taxes that normally would've gone to the Fire Department and local schools.

The agreement reached on Tuesday was a compromise. The Shoppes at St. Clair Square still get the full $5 million in tax incentives and the city will get one-third of the new sales tax to pay back those costs. The Fire Department and school districts get the remaining two-thirds.

"I do think it's a fair agreement for all concerned," said Kurt Schroeder, an attorney for Pontiac-William Holliday School District 105.

Those voting to approve the new tax and agreement were: Klein, Roger Lowry, Ward 2; Carol Warner, Ward 4; Kent Rataj, Ward 4; and Scott Rich, Ward 5. Ward 1 Alderman Norman Miller and Ward 3 Alderman Lydia Cruez voted against the agreement.

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Baeske excused herself from the vote, citing her involvement with the Catholic church located at the site. Ward 2 Alderman Robert Hinkle and Ward 5 Alderman Bonnie Crossley were absent from the meeting.

Distributed by the Associated Press