School district sues Winfield over new downtown tax district
A Winfield school district is taking legal action to block a special taxing district that would cost it property tax revenue over the next two decades.
Winfield village trustees on Nov. 18 voted unanimously to establish a second tax increment financing district in the village's downtown.
In a tax increment financing district, property taxes paid to local governments are frozen for up to 23 years. Any extra property tax money collected within the area after the district is established goes into a special fund to help pay for certain improvements.
The existing TIF district in downtown Winfield will expire in 2028. Proponents say the new TIF district is needed to spur continued downtown development. It also would generate money for a new village hall and police station.
But one day after the village board vote, Winfield Elementary District 34 filed a lawsuit against the village of Winfield. The school district is asking a DuPage County judge to rule on the legality of Winfield creating the new TIF district. It wants the court to dissolve the special taxing district.
The village delayed voting on the new TIF district several times so it could negotiate a revenue-sharing intergovernmental agreement with other local taxing bodies, including District 34.
Village trustees on Nov. 18 approved the intergovernmental agreement, which would share revenues drawn from property tax payments generated by the special taxing district.
But according to village officials, the deal is imperiled because District 34 walked away from negotiations on Nov. 12. State law prohibits the village from providing tax revenues to only some of the local governments.
On Wednesday, the village released a statement in response to the lawsuit. It said in part that District 34 made a "last-minute" demand for "more than double the amount the district would receive in the IGA over the 23-year life of the TIF."
"The leaders of District 34 have a fundamental misunderstanding about the premise of a TIF, which is to raise public investment capital to make improvements and create amenities on underdeveloped lands in order to attract private investment," the statement read. "District 34 is making a highly risky bet that their lawsuit will yield them more dollars."
Attorneys representing District 34 did not respond to a Daily Herald request for comment.
Winfield's new TIF district does not go into effect until village officials file paperwork with the county clerk's office.
Anticipating the District 34 lawsuit at the Nov. 18 meeting, Winfield Trustee Don Longacre bemoaned its likely expense.
"Any litigation is going to require the attorneys of the school district to go back to the residents to pay for it," Longacre said. "Likewise, when the litigation is against the village, we go back to those same residents for our funds to pay for litigation. The taxpayers will pay twice."