Wheeling approves $7M handout to developer

Wheeling approves $7M handout to developer

Despite residents seeing some of the highest property tax bills in the state, the Wheeling Board of Trustees approved a preliminary agreement giving a developer nearly $7 million to build apartments and retail space in the village.

The Wheeling Village Board of Trustees approved nearly $7 million in tax incentives to a developer March 5 to build apartments and retail property in the village’s downtown.

The Daily Herald reported the village would provide $6.5 million in tax increment financing, or TIF, funding for the project, as well as waive a $475,000 cost for water detention and compensatory storage. The village will also contribute up to $225,000 for road construction for the project.

But while new apartments and retail might seem like a nice addition for the suburban Chicago village, taxpayers in the area can’t afford to pick up the tab.

Taxpayers in Wheeling – located partially in both Cook and Lake counties – are shouldering some of the heaviest property tax burdens in the country. According to data from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Lake County residents pay a median property tax bill close to $6,900 – the very highest in the state and among the highest in the nation. Cook County residents don’t have it much easier, paying a median bill of more than $4,500, the eight-highest in the state.

Unfortunately for Wheeling taxpayers, this isn’t the first time the village has opted for expensive projects over easing residents’ property tax burden. In 2017, the village board approved a plan to use more than $1.2 million in TIF dollars to build a bridge to a vacant piece of land.

The state of Illinois needs to do to what it can to help ease property tax burdens, but that does not absolve local governments of their reckless spending habits. Wheeling and other collar county communities should get out of the practice of offering handouts to developers, and instead reign in their spending and help lower the property tax bills of some of the nation’s most overburdened property taxpayers.

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