Woodstock city officials said they will consider petitioning Springfield to extend the length of a tax increment financing district in order to help pay for the restoration of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House on the Square.

Woodstock’s TIF district, established in 1997, will terminate in 2020 if the city is not granted an extension from the Illinois General Assembly. An extension would add another 12 years to the lifespan of the TIF, which otherwise lasts for 23 years.

Members of the City Council talked at their Nov. 15 meeting about extending the TIF, when they also discussed long-term city ownership of the Courthouse. TIF funds could be used to help cover the expense of restoring the historic property, future costs for which were pegged at about $5 million in a report by the Urban Land Institute.

“What we need to be able to do tonight is to say to staff we want to begin the process of bringing [the TIF extension] to the public for a formal request for an extension,” Mayor Brian Sager told the council. “It takes time to do that.”

TIF districts are intended to spur growth in places where development will not occur without special incentives. When they go into effect, TIFs freeze property taxes paid to local governments. Any additional, or incremental, property tax revenue goes into a separate fund controlled by the municipality, which is used to pay for public or private projects within the district’s boundaries.

Woodstock’s 113-acre TIF district covers the Square and the surrounding downtown area. About $660,000 in incremental property tax revenue was collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year, according to the city’s annual financial report.

TIF funds already have been used to pay for the restoration of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House, a project which has cost about $2 million since the city took possession of the property in 2011. Extending the length of the TIF would allow the city to continue to use that revenue stream until 2032 at the latest. Otherwise, in 2020, the added tax revenue will again be distributed to all local governments — some to the city of Woodstock, but also to Woodstock School District 200, the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District, McHenry County and so on.

By consensus, council members agreed they would favor asking the legislature to extend the TIF. Councilman Joe Starzynski was absent.

The discussion was nonbinding and the council will have to vote on the issue at a future meeting if they want to move forward with the extension, City Attorney Ruth Schlossberg said.

City Manager Roscoe Stelford said city officials will reach out to taxing bodies impacted by the TIF in order to determine if they will support an extension.

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