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People are richer in the fifth district

At the last City Council meeting, the council discussed the Pioneer Parkway extension project, which would extend Pioneer Parkway from Allen Road three miles west to Trigger Road, crossing Routes 6 and 91 along the way. The objection was raised that we’ve been unable to adequately maintain the streets we currently have (in all districts, incidentally), and perhaps a better use of our limited funds would be to maintain our current assets before they deteriorate further. In fact, there has been no sealcoating or overlayment of our city streets (not including roads maintained by the state or federal government) since 2009.

In response, Councilman Spain had this to say:

I’ve never been one that really thought that an activity taking place in one part of our community has to come at the expense of another location. And I think we have a lot of things happening in Peoria that are positive for all parts of the city. And to say that a project like this that we’ve been working on for a long time shouldn’t move forward is pretty disappointing to me. And when you think about the activities and successes that we’ve experienced with growth in the northern parts of the city, I think that has been important. That doesn’t mean we should stop our efforts to grow the older parts of the city.

But the reality of our current tax base is that the real estate taxes paid in Councilman Irving’s district are about equal to all the real estate taxes paid in all four other districts combined. And so I think it’s important that we acknowledge that, and I appreciate your leadership on this issue, Councilman, and I think this will be another project that is important for the city and something that’s used to sustain services throughout the city so that we can continue investing in all parts of the community.

I first wanted to find out if it’s true that the fifth district generates 50% of the City’s real estate tax revenue, so I went looking for some sort of report that breaks down real estate tax receipts (or at least equalized assessed valuation information) by city council district. I checked with the Finance Department, the County Assessor, the City’s Planning & Growth and Economic Development departments, and even the Heartland Partnership — none of them had such a report. So I asked Mr. Spain how he came up with his figures, and he was kind enough to provide me with a detailed explanation:

My comments are based on preliminary work we have been doing with available EAV [equalized assessed valuation, or property value] information. The current EAV in the City is more than $2B. The D150 [Peoria Public Schools District 150] EAV is about $1.4B, about 70% of the total City. In Peoria, council districts 1-4 are almost exclusively within D150 (The exception to that is a small part of the 4th in Limestone). So at a maximum, the total real estate taxes of districts 1-4 is 70% of the City total. But we also know that there are large areas of the 5th district that are also in D150. Neighborhoods like WeaverRidge, High Point, Hawley Hills, Edgewild, Lynnhurst, Huntington, Oak Crest, and Charter Oak. I’ve attached a map that overlays our current council districts with Peoria County school districts -its a pretty good sized area of the 5th district that is still part of D150. We think there is enough property included in both the 5th district and D150 to represent about 20% of total City EAV.

Plausible, but I don’t know that I’d put it on the record as a fact without qualification the way Spain did at the last meeting. His analysis is based on some big assumptions. And, ultimately, it won’t matter much once the district boundaries are redrawn in a few months.

The bigger question is, what difference does it make? The issue at hand was whether we should use our limited funds to build a new road or maintain our existing roads. Existing roads are in poor condition all over the city — including the wealthy fifth district. I’m unclear as to what the relative wealth of the fifth district had to do with the item under consideration.

Mr. Spain, who lives in the fifth district himself, says he doesn’t think “an activity taking place in one part of our community has to come at the expense of another location.” True, but nobody said it does. Money given to one project, however, does indeed come at the expense of another project. Money spent on new city logos can’t be spent on police or fire protection. Assets given away for the downtown museum and hiking/biking trails cannot be used to generate tax revenue. And money spent on a study to extend Pioneer Parkway can’t be used to sealcoat existing streets.

Mr. Spain was no doubt trying to make the point that this proposed new road would open up more land for development, which would generate more tax revenues, which could then be used to benefit the whole city. And he probably was trying to say that finishing the study puts the city in a position to take advantage of state and federal grants for road construction (i.e., it makes the project “shovel-ready”). Those are reasonable, if not persuasive, arguments.

Unfortunately, what Mr. Spain actually said was, “the real estate taxes paid in [the fifth] district are about equal to all the real estate taxes paid in all four other districts combined” and that “it’s important that we acknowledge that,” which sounds like class discrimination, pure and simple. I don’t think he meant it that way (at least, I hope not), but I do think it was a poor choice of words.

In his e-mail to me, Mr. Spain also said one other thing in his defense, so I’ll give him the last word in this post: “Since it was not mentioned in your live blogging, I want to reiterate my position that investment in older parts of the City is just as important as investment in growth areas. I’ve really worked hard to find dollars for the older areas of the City -I was disappointed you didn’t acknowledge that.”

17 comments to People are richer in the fifth district

  • mazr

    And he was still re-elected!!! Great job, Peoria !!!

  • Hey, look at him. Just like Aaron Schock, he is soooooo adorable. No wonder he was re-elected.

  • Paul Wilkinson

    Aaron works his behind off, that’s why he was re-elected.

    One of the reasons why property taxes are lower are because of the thought process by Ryan and others. When the community is allowed to decay the property values decrease, when building new items is the focus of our tax dollars then there is not money left over to make the necessary repairs. Landlords operate a business unchecked, allowing problematic people to move in further destroying property values and investment. A focus on development does come at the expense of other areas, there are only so many tax dollars. As the streets up north are allowed to decay and as crime moves northward, it will lower theirs as well. The idea that we must have new development to bring in more tax dollars has proven itself to be unsustainable, otherwise there would not be layoffs, projects cut (except pet projects). In searching for money for older areas, let’s look at this: A vote to continue funding East Bluff Housing service which is not loaning money to residents to make repairs. An East Bluff TIF, which since there is no clear plan other than to pay off OSF’s $ 1 million funding of a study, I question the validity of those funds and viablility. From talking to other TIF reps, the residential portions of their funds is much more limited than commercial. Since the main block of land is non profit and more land will soon be put to non profit use, furthe income will be lost in this venture. Additionally, crime is a huge problem. Increasing patrols with a reduced police force means that other areas are not being adequately protected. A huge surge in gang acitivity in my area, is a direct result from these patrols. An east bluff officer that came over to break up the 20 man brawl 3 nights ago reported that some of the instigators had moved from the East Bluff over here. BTW the uninterested slumlord who owns the house where the gang fight took place lives on Post Oak Road. His philosophy has been to take money from the tenants and not reinvest into the property, ensuring that whatever people look at that dump and say “I’ll live here.” will continue to be the same problem people who left before. This was followed by the next night with a girl gang surrounding and threatening people in cars with baseball bats and the next night with a huge clump of gang members just standing around making sure everyone on Sheridan road knew this was there territory now. Where did these people come from? They weren’t here last summer. Shifting criminals from one area to another does not resolve any problems and yes it is at the clear expense of my neighborhood.

    Funding for the Warehouse District, comes at the expense of the other form base code districts that were already in line for funding. It also pulls federal funds when the Congressional House is trying to reduce our deficit. Funding for the hotel will add to our debt service pulling funds away from the budget, even with the added tax downtown, which people avoid by not going there, no peeps, no money, no tax $. Funding has been cut from road repairs, funding was cut in the sidewalk improvement programs. These come at a direct expense to a number of areas either by actual delays in current projects or creating huge impacts on future ones in the areas that need them.

    So District 150 Observor…here is where you you start looking at the dollar trail.

  • 5th District resident

    I would hope that all councilmen recognize that before Pioneer Pkwy. should have a prayer of being extended, the city first resolve the horrendous safety issue at the corner of Allen and Alta Roads. It is not if, but when he have a fatality on dead man’s curve.

  • Mahkno

    “I want to reiterate my position that investment in older parts of the City is just as important as investment in growth areas.”

    Just as important… to the tune of about 50% of revenues, leaving the other 50% for the 5th District. At least that is what it comes off sounding like to me.

  • W. Hernandez

    The most shocking thing about that comment is that I didn’t have an angry, hyperbolic retort the next day about what arrogant royalty Spain thinks he is because he decided to buy a house with a great view of Dunlap out his rear window. I think everyone from the 5th district should have had to abstain from this vote because of a conflict of interest, only Weaver did because he owns property in the impact zone.

  • wtf

    Spain didn’t buy his house, it was given to him by his grandparents. I would guess the sale showing up on the property tax information was produced by his buying out his sister for her half.

  • SD

    I wonder what will happen if a whole lot of the local citizens/taxpayers get together and file a class action suit against the city of Peoria for the damages to their vehicles from the unrepaired streets. We must concentrate on repairing and keeping in shape our infrastructure. What good is it going to be to have great roads out on Allen Rd. for big development if those that move out there can’t come into town or to a local Mall to shop because the streets are untravelable? Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure it must be maintained in good order in order to keep a vibrant growing city/community.

  • Joe Pye

    Though I don’t necessarily agree with the position, what I think the councilman was trying to say was that projects like this road extension would increase the tax base of the city, thus generating more revenue to help pay for the maintenance.

    That premise has been proven incorrect though… new development though it does increase tax base also increase the proportional cost base as well and they typically cancel each other out.

    The support for the project shouldn’t come from revenue side, it should come from a connectivity issue. The proposed road provides a local transportation artery between increasing development in the pioneer park area and increasing development in the grand prairie area. If you don’t plan for these things now, we will be complaining about the lack of planning when can’t efficiently travel from area of the city to the other.

  • W. Hernandez

    It doesn’t matter how he got the house, the point of the comment was that he seems to lack the full spectral view of the city as a whole, the way a councilman at large should. I suspect living so deep into the 5th district has warped his vision. That’s my opinion, no one else has to share it.

    If he was in Dan Irving’s spot, I wouldn’t complain so much, but he’s not. He’s supposed to be looking out for everyone in Peoria and he’s doing a bad job of it.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Was Ardis having a report compiled in response to Akeson’s vote on this issue? Is that report available yet?

  • cw

    There seriously cannot be anyone on the council that thinks they deserve a grade above Failure for their efforts or support of the older neighborhoods..Sure the property taxes in Averyville are low,but when you pay them year after year and no improvements are made then where is our taxes going??.If you are in some of the older neighborhoods it is not how much support we get, it is when do they start Mr Spain,,,,,

  • Paul Wilkinson

    This is the 5th night of gang or mob violence out of the past 6 nights. It is positively ridiculous. I do thank Chuck Weaver for his quick and thorough response, but unfortunately we are not even putting bandaids on it any more. I have never made the number of 911 calls that I have this week. It’s just exausting. I have a resident who just bought a house and is ready to sell it after 2-3 payments. A good landlord across from me has restored one property and is working on restoring another. Beautiful work and he won’t sell to an “investor” he wants someone who will live in the house. Can’t get a nibble directly because of the hot mess that has been going on. What’s worse is that when we called the cops in past years there was a very quick response, now 911 might get a 10-15 minute response. This is what makes comments like the one made at the last council meeting even more frustrating. It is what is practiced, so it was only a matter of time before it became an open way of doing business. I received an email today from another neighborhood leader asked specifically what was meant by Spain’s comment. I have not yet recieved word about a response. I would anticipate some press event in some older part of the city as a damage control then business as usual. What is further frustrating is that there is much complaining, but it never seems to make to the voting booth., hence no fear of repercussions.

  • Peeved

    The police is busy coming to my house about a slither of grass my neighbor wants cut. The grass is in the street surrounding a rusted truck that has been sitting on the street, in front of my house, within the property line for 12 years. It NEVER MOVES. The police won’t make her move it. I have NEVER been able to park in that space.

  • Not after they TIF the 5th district too!

  • Mary

    People are richer in the 5th District.