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Gardner village agrees to advance fire district TIF funds

GARDNER – The village of Gardner voted Tuesday night to advance TIF funds to the Gardner Fire Protection District in the amount of $75,000.

This action will help the fire district handle its high expenses due to ongoing legal battles.

“I got a call from one of the trustees of the fire protection district, and he said they were in need of money, and asked if there was anything we could do to help them out,” village finance commissioner Dick Hileman said.

He said he checked with village attorney Scott Belt and the village’s TIF attorney Tom Jacobs and found the village could give the fire district an advancement on its TIF payments at 0 percent interest, which would be taken out of tax payments paid to the village.

A TIF district is an area in which assessed property values are frozen at their current level. Tax money generated from the difference between the frozen value and current value of those properties goes into a special TIF fund to be used to improve properties in the district. 

The Gardner fire district receives a portion of the village’s TIF funds, and through Tuesday’s ordinance will get an advance on its next payment. 

The village will get paid back when the tax money gets paid from the Grundy County Treasurer. The village clerk will reduce the amount going to the fire district by the $75,000 advancement, according to the ordinance. 

“Through Jacobs’ projections, the fire protection district’s TIF funds are estimated at $93,000, so this amount is well within that number,” Belt said.

The village of Gardner and the Gardner Fire Protection District entered into an agreement Jan. 26, 1987, for the sharing of TIF funds, this agreement authorizes the village to provide additional capital contributions to the fire district at the discretion of the village.

“I thought it was best to do it for the safety and welfare of the members of our community,” Hileman said.

Commissioner Rob Wolf asked if the money being borrowed had to be used on capital improvements only.

Hileman said the district, just like the village, can borrow against the TIF funds and use the funds for purposes other than capital improvements as long as they pay that amount back into the TIF fund within a set amount of time and use those TIF funds for capital improvements.

The board voted unanimously to advance the funds, with commissioner Terry Jensen passing on the vote due to his position as fire chief.

Jensen said when the fire district gave him a budget to run the fire station with, it already had $135,000 taken out in legal fees.

“Once again the village has assisted us,” Jensen said.

Jensen said legal fees have mounted with the ongoing litigation between the Gardner Fire Protection District and the former Gardner Volunteer Fire Department, as well as numerous Freedom of Information Act requests that have to be fielded through the district’s attorney, and in some cases be redacted in order to provide them to the petitioner.

Gardner Fire Protection District commissioner Gary Morris said in a phone call after the meeting that he had no comment in regards to what the money will be used for by the fire district.

“It’s going to be used to pay a couple of bills,” he then added.

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