Attention Stakeholders in Geneva School District 304: You Are Being Robbed and the Crime Is Still in Progress

The Meat Market Tax Increment Financing Heist Perpetrated by the Geneva Mayor and His Minions

On the 7th of December of 2020, a date that lives in infamy, the Geneva City Council met. The Geneva community, in general, was in a state of anxiety over the Governor’s decree ordering a pandemic lockdown and the Mayor’s Council was considering an ordinance that would make defiance of this emergency decree into a local crime.

While the school community was distracted by graver issues, the Lord Mayor and his Privy Council stole about three-quarters of a million dollars from Geneva School District 304 and the other taxing bodies. Many of the school children and their taxpaying parents did not even live in the City of Geneva, but they were robbery victims just the same. These non-city residents were also victims of taxation without representation.

Briefly, on that December night in 2020, the City of Geneva deliberated on whether to make a gift of a City-owned 0.23-acre land parcel (tax number12-02-404-019) and a $551,000 cash gift to the developer of the Country Village Meats (“CVM”) at 715 East State street. The Meat Market is on parcel 12-02-404-015 and comprises 0.52 acres. The meat market site is 0.75 acres in total. The store opened about 3 months ago in the spring of 2022.

The white roof building in the center is the meat market. The red x marks the parking lot donated by Geneva taxpayers to the Country Village Meats (CVM) developer. The large building to the east is the CVS Pharmacy on a parcel measuring 1.9 acres. In 2002 CVS paid $1.875 million for the lot and existing building which was immediately demolished.

These are the three key points that the School District 304 stakeholders need to consider.

  1. With a TIF City of Geneva pockets any property tax dollars that exceed the total property tax bill that was based on the EAV when the TIF district was created. This is true to the end of the 23-year life of a TIF. This is called the “TIF Base.” The EAV for the parcel that contains the CVM building was $126,876.00 for the tax year 2002. This number is the same as the TIF Base listed on the 2021 tax bill. The “fair cash value” in 2021 was $567, 234, the “fair cash value in 2002” was $380,628. BUT THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE THE GIFTED PARKING PARCEL. CVS paid about $240,000 per 0.23 acre in 2002! The total City of Geneva gift to CVM was about $800,000.
  2. The City of Geneva took a third of all the tax paid on the Country Village Meats property in 2021. ALL the other taxpayers in District #304 had to make up the difference. Again, many of these payers do not live in the City of Geneva.
  3. When a TIF district expires, all the money remaining in the TIF Fund must be distributed back to the taxing bodies from which the money came.

The 2021 Property Tax Bill for the CVM parcel with the building. The tax bill had been flat since 2019.

Here is the poignant December 2020 plea of the Mayor’s six-figure salary minion in charge of TIFs:

“Opportunity is meeting desire. There is a willing seller and a highly desirable purchaser. It has taken years to get here; the TIF is near to expiration. It has been very difficult to find a hybrid end user to occupy the entire building that offers a unique combination of storefront and warehouse. It has been even more difficult to secure an owner occupant who shares a passion for the neighborhood and for the betterment of the community. Time is of the essence for several reasons including financing obligations and timing of existing lease renewals, a backup offer and a pending closing date. Moreover, time is of the essence due to the pending East State Street road construction and as mentioned above the pending TIF expiration. If Geneva is going to attract another significant user to the east side and make a meaningful change at this site- now is the time to act.”

Wait…we were told the building was vacant. What is this about existing leases? What is this about a “backup offer?” Smells of still more Open Meetings Act violations, doesn’t it?

The Mayor and Council acted hastily like they each had an expiring coupon for 10 gallons of $2 gasoline, or half off on a side of beef.

Geneva School District 304 stakeholders must ask themselves a couple questions. Would we have preferred to get the cash back at the end of the TIF so that some of the residents of the District present when the money was paid in could benefit? Or, do we feel lucky?

Well, do we?

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