Economic Development Council reinforces business district’s importance

Staff Writer
Morton Times-News

I do not know anyone who likes higher taxes. If taxes are to be raised, it should be for a very good purpose, such as maintaining village services, building a new pool complex, improving our schools or improving our community through stronger and new businesses. The proposed business district will help all of our businesses, thus making Morton a more attractive place to shop and conduct business. It seems the proposed implementation of a business district in Morton has caused quite a bit of discussion.  This letter is to clarify some of the misconceptions we are hearing about the district and to explain why we are in full support of this effort.

What is a business district?

A business district is a designated area that is in need of improvements. A city can establish a district and impose an increase in sales tax in the district to generate funds to improve the district. East Peoria and Peoria both have business districts.  The Morton business district was proposed by the Morton Economic Development Council’s Downtown Development and Retail Recruitment Action teams and is currently being considered for approval by the Morton village trustees.

Who will be included in the business district?

The proposed business district for Morton will include almost all of our commercial business areas, including the downtown, Field Shopping Center, Morton Plaza, Detroit Street area and the Courtland business area.

What will the increase in sales tax be?

The proposed increase in sales tax in the district is .25 percent. That would equate to 25 cents for every $100 spent. Automobiles, groceries and pharmaceuticals are not included in the increase. For a family spending $1,000 per month on qualifying purchases (restaurant meals, gas, home goods, etc.) in Morton, this increase would equate to $2.50 per month, or $30 per year.  While this amount is fairly minimal per family, collectively, it will create a new fund of approximately $400,000 per year that can be used for district improvements. This increase would raise Morton’s sales tax in the district to 7 percent.  Neighboring communities have sales tax rates of 8-10 percent. These funds are paid by everyone who comes to Morton. Thus, the improvements we can make within the business district are paid by revenue generated from visitors, not just residents.

What will the funds be used for?

The funds will not go into the general coffers of the village. The new funds will primarily be used for three main purposes: to improve the infrastructure in the district (streets, parking areas, sidewalks, etc.), to attract new business development in the district (through building renovations, low-interest business loans and special incentives) and to assist existing businesses in expansion and renovation efforts (façade improvement grants and low-interest loans).   Quite simply, the fund will bring new businesses to Morton, help existing businesses to expand and make commercial areas attractive, busy districts where people want to shop and spend their time.  All of these items are what Morton residents asked for in the village’s long-range plan.  

Why should we do this now?

Businesses in Morton pay most of our bills. The money that we pay into our local coffers as residents in the form of property tax does not cover the costs that we each incur. Businesses, however, subsidize our costs through property and sales tax, as well as other fees that they contribute to our overall budget. Therefore, the health and growth of our business districts are critical in helping us cover the increasing costs of our village services.  This business district will establish an ongoing fund to propel business recruitment and expansion efforts in Morton.

The Morton Economic Development Council is committed to helping our community find ways to attract and retain high-quality businesses and jobs. We believe that the establishment of this district is a critical tool needed for our efforts. If you are supportive of the business district and would like to help us make it a reality, please contact your village trustees and make your thoughts known. A list of our village trustees and their contact information can be found at www.mortonchamber.org when you click on the elected officials link. 

When considering a new tax, we all have to consider the benefit vs. the burden. I consider the imposition of this tax a very small burden in comparison to the great benefit of a robust and vibrant business environment in Morton and a strong and wonderful community of which we can all be proud.

Jim Benckendorf

President, Morton

Economic Development Council