Council OKs TIF funds for VCHS all-weather track

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

City officials agreed on Monday to help with the installation of an all-weather track at Vandalia Community High School.
The city council unanimously approved a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) agreement through which the city will contribute $65,000 in each of the next five years, or $325,000 total, for the new track.
The TIF contribution is one of five funding sources for the track, which district officials estimate will cost about $500,000.
In addition to the TIF monies, the Vandalia School District will use $25,000 of its own funds; $50,000 received from Pepsi through a new agreement calling for Pepsi products to be used in the district; $25,000 from the Vandals Sports Boosters; and $75,000 from the Hazel Simma Kelly Foundation.
Those totals represent a five-year contribution from each source.
To get the building project under way as soon as possible, the school district will take out a five-year loan, according to Vandalia Superintendent of Schools Rich Well.
Well told alderman of the need for an all-weather track, and how it would benefit the community as well as students in the school district.
“I would venture to say that we are one of the only schools our size in the state with a cinder track,” Well said.
He said that when he was hired as the Vandalia Community High School athletic director eight years ago, he began working on a plan for an all-weather track. School officials were unable to come up with the funding for a new track at that time.
Then, he said, a group was put together to begin formulating a plan, but that group’s efforts were halted by a downturn in the economy.
Now, he said, the school district is ready to move forward with the project.
“We wanted to put together a package that wouldn’t affect property taxes,” Well said.
Not only would the new track allow the district to again host high school track meets, it could compete for postseason track events, he said.
Also, Well said, the new track would provide a level, all-weather surface for people in the community who exercise by walking.
In asking for TIF funds, Well said the district was agreeing not to ask for any other TIF monies during the term of the new agreement. The first TIF payment will be made to the district on Jan. 1, 2012.
Well also noted that while a number of school districts have not supported TIF programs in their communities, because of the loss of property tax monies, the Vandalia School District has supported, and will continue to support, the TIF program in this community.
He said that had the TIF program not been in place last year, the school district would have received an additional $300,000 in tax monies.
Expiring this year is a five-year agreement through which the city gave the school district $100,000 for a new roof on the high school gym.
Through the TIF program, new property taxes generated by improvements within the city’s two TIF districts go into the city’s TIF fund. The city can then use the TIF monies for its own projects or issue grants or loans to developers for their improvement projects.
JoAnn Sasse Givens, the city’s director of economic development and tourism, estimated on Monday that the program has been generating roughly $500,000 annually in recent years.
For more on the new all-weather track at the high school, see Page 6A in today’s issue of The Leader-Union.