Council members unhappy about letter

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

A letter sent to the Times Record by Mercer County Board member Jeff McWhorter caused Aledo City Council members to respond Monday night. Council members said, among other things, McWhorter's figures were incorrect.

Saying he was writing as "a tax paying citizen" and not as a representative of the County Board, McWhorter said the city's tax increment financing (TIF) districts were "a big reason why our schools and county government are in such poor financial health."

Alderman Jay Doherty, Ward 4, said the numbers McWhorter cited were wrong.

"It will be anywhere from 8- to 10-million (dollars) off," Doherty said.

In the letter, McWhorter said $26,985,000 dollars have been "sucked up the the City of Aledo from other taxing bodies" since the TIF program began here in 1985.  A report distributed by the city showed just less than $10.9 million have gone into the TIF since it began in 1987.

TIFs are used as an economic development tool. Taxing bodies are asked to forgo the amount of taxes above the base value of real estate taxes in TIF districts until the TIF expires. The base is the tax generated before new development. The theory is when the TIF expires, the taxing bodies will receive more taxes because of the creation of a greater tax base.

McWhorter accused the city of sitting on a surplus that could have gone to other taxing bodies. City Administrator Robert Mahrt said the money is not laying around.

"The City Council did adopt the 5-year improvement plan and it specifically outlines how the TIF money will be used," Mahrt said.

Aledo's TIF expires in five years.

"There really isn't going to be a surplus," Doherty added, because the money is earmarked for projects.

Alderman Michael Chausse, Ward 3, noted TIF funds have been used for job creation, a greater equalized assessed valuation and infrastructure improvement "that bring people into the county he (McWhorter) represents."

It was also pointed out McWhorter did not mention TIFs in Viola and Sherrard, or that the Mercer County School District has a surplus rather than being in the financial straits McWhorter blamed on the city.

A number of aldermen did express misgivings about getting into a debate through the newspaper and radio station.

"I don't want to get into any battles, I don't want to argue, I don't want to fight," Alderman Terry Bewley, Ward 4, said.

"If we respond, I want to respond with facts only," Alderman Ila Bertrand, Ward 1, said. "I don't care for the tone of this letter at all."

Mayor Chris Hagloch said it's something everyone on the council will be thinking about.

"We'll all have more comments" in the future "I'm sure," Hagloch said.