What is a Special Service Area?
A Special Service Area (SSA) is a taxing mechanism that can be used to fund a wide range of special or additional services and/or physical improvements within a specific geographic area of a municipality or county. This financing tool usually involves levying an additional property tax only in the area that will receive the special service or improvement. Special service financing enables the municipality or county to provide any public service to a portion of its jurisdiction without burdening the entire community with a debt or tax. In essence, the property owners are choosing to assess a fee of themselves to create a pool of funds to benefit their immediate district. The City works with them to ensure that the legal requirements of creating such a fund are upheld. It the only financing method which permits a tax rate in one part of a municipal jurisdiction that will not apply to the rest of the municipality. SSA’s are authorized under Illinois State Statute granting municipalities and counties the authority “to levy or impose additional taxes upon areas within their boundaries in the manner provided by law for the provision of special services to those areas and for the payment of debt incurred in order to provide those special services.” (35 ILCS 200).
The SSA can be proposed either by the City Council or by an owner of property located within the proposed SSA. The City Council then formally initiates the process by adopting an ordinance that proposes the SSA. Thereafter the City Council conducts a public hearing regarding the proposed SSA. Notice of the hearing must be provided in advance by both publication in a newspaper and by mailing to the owners of the subject properties. As required by State law, individual property owners are allowed to submit petitions in opposition to the SSA within 60 days of the public hearing. By the end of the objection period, if at least 51% of the electors residing within the Special Service Area and at least 51% of the owners of record of the land included within the boundaries of the Special Service Area object, the request for an SSA cannot be established. Otherwise, the City Council may consider an Ordinance creating the Special Service Area.
The City of Highland Park has three active Special Service Areas: