Technical Assistance and Education Services to Establish a Special Service Area (SSA)

Town of Normal, IL

SB Friedman provided technical assistance, educational services and public input facilitation services to the Town of Normal as it explored establishing an SSA in the Uptown area of the Town.

Over the past several years, the Town has made substantial capital investments in the Uptown area, which is Normal’s Downtown and is adjacent to Illinois State University and the Town’s Amtrak Station. These capital investments were made based on improvements recommended in the Uptown Redevelopment Plan. Further, the Town has historically funded many services in Uptown that are frequently provided by an SSA, such as district marketing and beautification.  To ensure that recent streetscape and other improvements would have a stable source of maintenance funding going forward, the Town was interested in establishing an SSA.

A significant percentage of the land area within the preliminary SSA boundary is owned by the Town and other tax exempt entities. The entire study area is located within a tax increment financing district. A large hotel convention center complex was recently completed in the area as well as a bank building with two additional floors of leasable space and an apartment building marketed to students. All three of these issues have implications on the financial capacity of a potential SSA as well as the establishment process and taxation formula.

SB Friedman gathered data from the Township Assessor and worked with the Town to develop realistic projections of future taxable EAV and possible budgets for the SSA. The goal of these analyses was to provide order of magnitude estimates of potential tax increases on property owners in the area.  We also worked with the Town to determine which services currently provided by the Town are within the statutorily-allowable services for an SSA and to analyze the Town land and frontage areas to determine an appropriate Town monetary and in-kind services contribution level. Lastly, we provided formulas for taxation strategies based on EAV alone, property street frontage alone, and an adjustable combination of the two metrics.

Working with key stakeholders, SB Friedman analyzed the preliminary budget capacity of an Uptown SSA, developed a customized SSA education presentation and handouts, conducted two educational public meetings to introduce the SSA tool to local business and property owners, planned and managed a set of focus groups, and interviewed the major property owners.  As a result of these meetings, the original proposed boundary has been adjusted and the Town is researching additional marketing services and initiatives that the SSA may be able to provide.

Results: The Town is working with the SSA Steering Committee to finalize a menu of services and budget ranges to present in the next round of public input.