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Meeting Set to Discuss 26 Percent Property Tax Increase for Six Corners

 The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road.
The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — Six Corners property owners would see their taxes jump more than 26 percent next year under a proposal to increase the budget for the special tax district designed to fill empty storefronts and spruce up the area around Irving Park Road and Milwaukee and Cicero avenues, officials said.

The additional money would be spent mainly on beautification efforts in the Six Corners Shopping District, which has seen more than two dozen restaurants and shops open in the last 1½ years, interim executive director Kelli Wefenstette said.

"We've seen growth and then stabilization in the district," Wefenstette said. "We really want to take our services to the next level."

A meeting to discuss the proposed tax increase and the budget — which would rise from $226,000 in 2015 to $284,000 in 2016 — for the Six Corners Special Service Area will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Las Tablas Restaurant, 4920 W. Irving Park Road.

Heather Cherone says not everyone supports the tax increase:

The increase would mostly be used to add trees and planters as well as more public art such as murals and sculptures around Six Corners, Wefenstette said.

The tax hike has already been endorsed by the commission in charge of operating the tax district, but city regulations require officials to hold a public meeting because of the size of the increase.

City Newsstand and Cafe owner Joe Angelastri, who helped form the Special Service Area in 2005, was the only commissioner to vote against the hike.

Angelastri voted no because part of the increase would be used to hire another employee to manage the Special Service Area rather than on tangible improvements to the commercial district, once the premier shopping district outside the Loop.

"This is going in the wrong direction," Angelastri said.

But Commissioner Anna Zolkowski Sobor, of the Old Irving Park Association, said the proposed budget was "necessary and prudent." Commissioners Dale Harris, of the Sears Key Shop, and Anna Maria Kowalik, of Inland Commercial Real Estate, also endorsed the hike.

"If you want your business district to thrive, you have to pay to make it look good," Zolkowski Sobor said. "This is not an extravagant budget."

The additional money would also be used to increase the Six Corners Association's grant to Hands to Help Ministries, which works to reduce panhandling around Six Corners by providing a safety net for homeless people, Wefenstette said.

In addition, the district needs two employees to operate efficiently, as it did before former executive director Ed Bannon resigned in February, Wefenstette said.

The district's personnel costs will also rise next year because of the hike in Chicago's minimum wage that went into effect this month, Wefenstette said.

The budget proposal calls for Six Corners property owners to pay 0.6 percent of the equalized assessed valuation of their property by Cook County officials to the special service area in 2016, up from 0.56 percent in 2015, Wefenstette said.

The maximum tax rate the special service area's commission is allowed to levy is 0.75 percent of property's value during the 15-year term of the special service area, which was approved by property owners earlier this year, officials said.

Six Corners Association — funded by the tax — has been credited with helping to reverse decades of decline at Six Corners by Ald. John Arena (45th).

Its success spurred an ongoing effort to create a Special Service Area in the Jefferson Park Business District, which has also struggled to attract shoppers and fill empty storefronts.

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