GARDNER – The village of Gardner has requested from the court more time to ask the state Supreme Court for an appeal on its latest decision on its case with Gardner-South Wilmington High School regarding TIF dollars.
On Monday Gardner Village Attorney Scott Belt filed a motion for extension of time to file a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“The [Gardner Village] Board feels this case is worthy of Supreme Court review,” Belt said. “Especially since it involves public tax dollars.”
Belt said he expects a decision on the time extension within the next 30 days. The village originally had until Wednesday to motion for the appeal. But due to the village only meeting twice a month and its recent hiring of additional attorney Michael Reagan, who is out of town on a previously scheduled trip, Gardner needs more time to prepare, according to the court documents.
“It’s just illogical. There is nothing to be gained by pursuing this,” school district Superintendent Michael Perrott said.
The continuation of this legal matter only results in wasting of taxpayer money – twice over – since the taxpayers have to pay for both the village and the school’s legal fees, Perrott said.
This village’s action follows last month’s Illinois Supreme Court denial to rehear the case with the high school. The denial followed the Third District Court’s July decision not to rehear the case and its April decision to uphold the Grundy County court’s previous decisions in favor of the school.
School District 73 filed its original lawsuit in 2012, alleging the village violated a 1986 tax increment financing agreement under which the school should have received more than $400,000 in 2012. Since that time, the village has paid all but about $70,000 to the school – the amount the village disputes.
The village maintains that under a new law, the village is legally obligated as the TIF creator to account for how TIF money is spent, Belt said. It is required to make sure the taxing bodies are spending the TIF funds properly and it appears the district is not.
A TIF district allows for municipalities to develop blighted areas by freezing equalized assessed values and using the monetary difference between the frozen EAV and current EAVs to fix up the areas.
The village argued the TIF money was only to be used for capital expenses, such as new construction. When the village discovered some of the money, about $70,000, was being used for salaries and benefits, it withheld the money, arguing it is obligated to monitor TIF funds and make sure they are spent in accordance with the law.
The school district continues to argue its agreement is a license agreement, differing from a traditional TIF agreement, and allows the district to use the funds however the school needs.
The district and the village’s agreement is for use of its recreational facilities to be used by the public when the school is not using them. In return for the use, the district gets a portion of the TIF funds. Because the agreement is for the use of facilities within the TIF district, the appellate court ruled the TIF act does not restrict how the district spends the funds.