WJBC Voices: ‘Cheerleading’ for Uptown

By Sally Pyne

I serve as a Normal Township trustee and we were asked to vote on the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) developed by the Town of Normal in order to extend the life of the Uptown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. This was not an easy decision and there were as many reasons to do it as there were factors to consider not to tie that money up for another 20 years. I appreciate the luxury of having this forum in order to provide an explanation of my affirmative vote on Thursday morning.

First of all, thank you to everyone for your input on this complicated issue. I appreciate all the phone calls, e-mails and meetings that helped me form a decision. I want to publicly express how much I appreciate the thought-provoking comments and resources that our Township Supervisor, Sarah Grammer, provided to me. She is truly a brilliant administrator.

I’ve often told people that this experience as a trustee is much like graduate school. There is lots of studying and learning about new things. There is much critical thinking and often times no right or wrong answers. Thursday morning felt like the final exam.

No one is a bigger cheerleader for Uptown Normal than me, a 55-year resident who ran around in “blighted downtown Normal” as a kid. Once my best friend and I thought it would be a good idea to stay out all night, so we slept in the laundromat on North Street across from the bakery on the Linden Street corner, a miserable night to be sure. But look at it now! Certainly, the town staff and council have done an excellent job and have an amazing track record. While some may argue it is not as “rosy” as it seems, I believe the “big picture” for Uptown Normal is very bright.

We are fortunate to have someone as talented and experienced as Sally Heffernan, Economic Development Director for the Town of Normal, working with us. When Sarah and I met with her and Normal City Manager, Pamela Reece, in late April we asked for the proposed agreement to be put in writing, as they did, and we are now presented with an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), something our legal counsel advised us to get before making a decision of any kind.

I knew my decision would be based in my elected position as trustee of Normal Township, as that is the only reason I even have a vote, and the opportunity to provide input on this issue to extend the Uptown TIF another 12 years. The primary responsibility a trustee has is to be a good shepherd of the tax money we collect. I take this very seriously, and although I am sure my questions regarding the budget every month cause some to roll their eyes, I am earnest in watching out for each expenditure, as this money is not easy to come by, and it must accomplish many things our Township is charged with doing.

We are also very proud of the ARC which the previous Trustee Board so bravely built and completed, and it is important that we protect the resources necessary to keep that the premier facility as amazing as it is. All these things are important, and the township only has real estate taxes as a form of revenue. How we spend that, and how we invest that, is of utmost importance and risk must be measured carefully as part of that responsibility.

While many factors could affect development and progress, a measure of trust and a good deal of faith and optimism are values I hold dear and are therefore wrapped in my calculated decision. This extension creates an economic development tool for the Town of Normal. The township will recoup their money in eight years if Springfield approves or denies the extension. The surplus promised upon an extension is a “return of increment over and above the 2003 base.” More time to develop the non-developed part of the TIF district should return at a higher investment once the TIF expires. I think this is a very well-calculated risk which involves optimism and faith in my fellow elected officials and public servants. It is for these reasons that I cast a “yes” vote.

Dr. Sally Pyne is a lifelong resident of Normal. She is a retired educator and served both Illinois State University and Lincoln College Normal. Her husband Ed owns the Normalite newspaper as well as seven other weeklies in McLean County.

The opinions expressed within WJBC’s Voices are solely those of the Voices’ author, and are not necessarily those of WJBC or Cumulus Media, Inc.

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