Sales taxes at Golf Mill Shopping Center will not be raised after the Niles Village Board turned thumbs down on the idea at its meeting Tuesday.
However, that means the mall will not get the financing its leaders said it needed to renovate, stay financially healthy and keep sales tax revenue flowing to the village.
and the board the 4-1 vote (with one absence) hinged on what Trustee Chris Hanusiak characterized as the mall's unwillingness to pay for routine maintenance to solve its flooding issues during the profitable years before the recession.
Hanusiak said he went on a detailed tour of the mall and was surprised to learn that it had flooded four times. He said he would have expected the mall to fix the problem after the first flood.
"It’s difficult for me to support this when they didn’t do maintaintence," he said. "These are things you would do around your home. This is their home — it wasn’t maintained."
Trustee Rosemary Palicki also expressed concerns, saying, "I think the residents of Niles would benefit from a revamped Golf Mill. But ... I would need more information from the owners as to why they have not maintained the property and why they are looking to the village for financial support."
Coming at the issue from a different angle, Trustee Andrew Przybylo said his family's business, White Eagle Banquets, founded in the 1960s as Golf Mill was, did a major renovation 20 years ago and struggled. They then grew the business to $6 million a year, Przybylo said, but when the recession started in 2007-08, business dipped about 30 percent to the $4 million range. Salaries were cut and roofs went unrepaired, he said.
"If you think it’s easy to deal with the kind of people that are going in there to lease space — it’s not easy," Przbylo said. He acknowledged the mall might not always have made perfect business decisions, but told his fellow trustees that to neglect redevelopment for the mall could jeopardize the $2.7 million the village receives annually from Golf Mill's sales tax revenue. That makes up 12 percent of the sales tax revenue the village takes in, he said.
Przybylo said he wasn't in favor of raising the sales tax at Golf Mill, but he liked an idea Trustee Louella Preston had floated earlier at the meeting. She asked Greg Hummel, an attorney and partner with Bryan Cave LLP, whether the village of Niles could use money from the sales tax increase it passed in January (for stormwater relief and pension funding) to help Golf Mill. The answer from Hummel, who was retained by the village and specializes in public-private partnerships, was a qualified yes.
The board was scheduled to vote on three items: one to affirm that Golf Mill's infrastructure problems qualified it to be named a "business district" (a legal designation in Illinois). The second vote would have made Golf Mill a business district, and the third would have raised the sales tax the village collected at the mall by 0.25 percent, or 25 cents on $100 in purchases.
The village would have funneled the increase in sales taxes to the mall to help fund infrastructure improvements, renovation and aesthetic improvement.
Hummel earlier had said that the important thing for the village to think about was to create a sensible public-private partnership. However, he pointed out the mall's role in the village's economic vitality.
"You are a retail capital of the area. You have a revenue stream many communities would love to have," he said.
"You do draw sales tax dollars from a wide area — that’s unusual and that’s worth protecting."
After the trustees voted no on the the first part of the three-part vote, Mayor Robert Callero declared that made the other two moot.
Trustee Joe LoVerde was absent from the meeting due to illness, Callero said.