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Village job-training funds go unused

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By KEVIN BEESE
MAYWOOD

Money that has sat in Maywood village coffers for more than two decades – money that could have been used for job training and other business reimbursements – is being divided up between the village and other taxing bodies.

The village has opted to divvy up the $250,000 remaining in the St. Charles Road Tax Increment Financing District’s job training component on a proportional basis with Maywood taxing bodies. The money has been in the village’s St. Charles Road TIF fund for 25 years, two years beyond the life of the TIF District.

Tax increment financing districts are designated through legislation to spur development in an area deemed as blighted. The levies for all taxing bodies are frozen in the designated TIF area. The difference between the frozen levies and the actual levies goes into a special TIF fund with that money going to pay for municipal improvements in the area, tax incentives to entice developers and reimbursable expenses such as job training by community colleges and businesses.

“It’s incumbent upon businesses located within this particular TIF District to request those dollars and to be reimbursed or for your community colleges to be reimbursed for training courses that relate to employers in the TIF District,” Village Attorney Michael Jurusik told Village Board members in December when the job training TIF money was discussed. “So, it’s very limited how that money can be spent.”

Mayor Edwenna Perkins was the sole board member to vote against the divvying up of the job training money, feeling that a more concentrated effort should be made to promote job readiness programs within the TIF District. She said the job training money may have been in the St. Charles Road TIF fund for 25 years, but no business even knew the money existed.

“For the last two years, we have been trying to get the people to take advantage of educating our children,” Perkins said in casting her “no” vote. “We just gave away $250,000 that we could have used to educate our children, with a 20 percent ratio of unemployment (in the village).”

Trustee Isiah Brandon said that Cintas, Aetna Plywood, and small- and mid-size companies along St. Charles Road could benefit from job training. He said a lot of the businesses he has been in contact with are unaware that the TIF funds are available for their use.

“I was looking for some creativity with those funds to create some type of job-training program that would help prepare people for jobs,” Brandon said. I think that one of the purposes for TIF district funds is to have some type of impact in regards to employment and job creation.” He said all three village TIF districts – Madison Street, Roosevelt Road and St. Charles Road – need a creative use of funds to create jobs and boost businesses.

“You have Loyola and Hines over there along Roosevelt Road. How can we create some type of program to train people?” Brandon asked. “… It takes work. It takes somebody to lead it.”

He challenged village staff to find programs, possibly in conjunction with Triton College, to get medical job training going in the community so people would qualify for jobs at Hines and Loyola hospitals. With a village unemployment rate hovering around 20 percent, Brandon said, creative thinking is needed to find ways to use TIF money to the village’s advantage. He said job training and job creation have to be of paramount importance for village officials.

Trustee Mike Rogers said taking money from the dormant TIF fund and giving prorated shares back to taxing bodies is good for the community as a whole.

“The funds go to the (Cook) county treasurer who gives everybody their share. That’s the library, schools, whatever,” Rogers said.

“All of those entities would get their share of the funding that comes out of these dormant funds that have essentially been sitting there. It is better to take them out of that dormancy, returning them to the treasurer and then have real money that all of those taxing bodies would be able to utilize — and the village is the largest of those. So 50 or 51 percent of that would come to the village within its general fund and the village would be able to use it for all of the things it needs, including infrastructure.”

He said it is not the village’s job to show businesses how to do their training. “We have said it and we’ve said it and we’ve said it,” Rogers said,

“They need to step up and say what it is that they would like to utilize from the mechanism that the village created and has had for the last 25 years. We can only do so much.”

Attorney Jurusik said the St. Charles Road TIF will remain open through the end of this year and that the $1.1 million balance can still be tapped for reimbursable expenses such as job training.

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