Tax incentives for mall site will impact pay for teachers

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Lindbergh Schools teachers dissatisfied with their pay are receiving a great deal of support from some district residents.

Yet many of these residents backing Lindbergh teachers, and even some teachers and their relatives, campaigned for the $25 million in tax incentives granted to the owner of the former Crestwood Plaza property.

It’s simple: You can’t say you support Lindbergh teachers if you support the tax incentives for the mall.

For example, one resident speaking at last week’s Board of Education meeting said she wanted to see more money allocated for salaries.

Yet in her next breath, she requested that Lindbergh officials stop talking about the tax incentives granted for the former mall site.

Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. Lindbergh Schools will bear the brunt of the $25 million in tax incentives granted by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen to the owner of the former mall site, Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group.

The $25 million in tax incentives for UrbanStreet includes $15 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF, assistance, or a Chapter 353 tax abatement; $5 million in Community Improvement District funds; and $5 million in Transportation Development District funds.

Lindbergh officials say the school district stands to lose over $9 million during the life of the TIF, which a consultant for the city estimated at 15 years. School district officials contend the life of the TIF may be longer, citing a lack of cash registers at the site to retire the TIF obligations.

In fact, Lindbergh is already feeling the impact of the mall redevelopment, as UrbanStreet has successfully appealed the value of the property.

As a result, Lindbergh will receive $95,000 less per year going forward.

Last year, leaders of the Lindbergh National Education Association, or LNEA, were upset when district officials declined to add an extra $29,000 for teacher pay. Yet LNEA leaders do not bat an eye this year about the loss of $95,000 per year going forward — recurring revenue that could have funded salary increases.

During a public hearing before the Crestwood TIF Commission, two Lindbergh teachers personally voiced their opposition to the tax incentives for the former mall site.

Asked what the LNEA did to oppose the $25 million in tax incentives for UrbanStreet, LNEA Vice President Gretchen Moser told the Call, “Nothing.”