by Thelma Sardin
Business owners and community residents of 34th Ward crowded into the Sheldon Heights Church located on 11325 South Halsted Street on last week to discuss Special Service Area (SSA) #46.
SSA #45 and #46 are located in the 34th Ward.
The SSA Program is a mechanism to fund expanded services and programs through a localized property tax levy within contiguous industrial, commercial and residential areas, according to the City of Chicago’s website.
The town hall meeting last week was for both #45 and #46 where the debate centered around the calculation of the tax levy where #46′s tax increment is much higher than #45.
Arba L. Houlden, Jr. executive director of the Far South Community Development Corporation (FSCDC) explained that, “The voting constituents benefit from the SSA because a more attractive and safe business district attracts more viable and popular tenants to the Ward. This way residence don’t have to travel outside the Ward to other neighborhoods for goods that their community provides,” he stated.
SSA-funded projects could include but are not limited to security services, area marketing and advertising assistance, promotional activities such as parades and festivals, or any variety of small scale capital improvements which could be supported through a modest property tax levy.
There are 43 SSA’s in the City of Chicago. According to Houlden, there are roughly 29 in white communities, 10 in black communities and 4 in Hispanic communities around the city.
Rose Wellington, owner of Rose Paradise Salon, said during the meeting, “I want to applaud the SSA.” She continued by saying SSA security guards visit her business on a regular basis which makes her staff and customers feel more secure.
Ursula Sawyer of Insure One also thinks the SSA is beneficial to the 34th Ward and believes if she ever needed help, the SSA security guards “would help her” until police arrived.
However, businesses owners like Thomas Jundanian, President of K.A. Pridjian Rug Cleaning and Sales said although he doesn’t think the SSA is a “threat” to the community, it’s a high cost to pay. He questions whether businesses can afford it, adding the SSA is not what business owners like him were initially presented with.
When asked what the terms of the SSA were when it was presented to the community, Houlden stated, “The expected increase was understood as being a 1.5% of the assessed value of the property and when the taxes actually came out the calculation ballooned to as much as 30%. The city nor the county has made it clear why this has happened,” Houlden said.