Wednesday, August 5, 2009

$1.4 Billion In TIF Funds "Untouchable"

The schools are broke. The police are understaffed. City workers are required to take furlough days, and services are cut. But don't touch that TIF money! From Crain's Chicago Business:
Call it the $1.4-billion question. The collective cash balance in the bank accounts of Chicago's 164 tax-increment-financing districts is a cool $1.4 billion, according to a citizens' group that wants to tap that pot amid the city's big budget cuts. But city officials insist that little, if any, of that money is available for general use, even in hard times. [...] The answer from the city planning department, which runs the TIF operation, is the same now as it was then: No. Not possible.

Read the entire article here.


  1. 'State law that governs TIFs sharply restricts their use to specific sorts of projects, Mr. Jasso said.'

    Riiiight... And that same restriction has no clout once the money is distributed because the developments take place behind closed doors without community input. Oh, and by the time the community are allowed to know what's up (or find out from their own diligence) it is 'too late' to file litigation says our trusty legal system.

    TIF is a perfect system...


  2. Regarding the comment by Uptown Unity that I totally agree with, it seems the community should file a lawsuit regarding any new TIF to get someone on the record for what the money is going to be used for specifically. Then when the plans change maybe it would be easier to hold the powers that be more accountable.

  3. I wonder if the TIFs in Chicago would be less corrupt if our state representative and state senator pressed for TIF reform on the state level?

    I wonder why I hear very little from the press about pushing for reform on this level? It seems fairly clear to me that Daley and City Council have proven themselves incapable of controling their appetites for TIFs.

  4. This scenario reminds me of the episode of Golden Girls when Blanche found St. Olaf war bonds in a box of junk she bought from Rose. Only problem was cashing in the $50,000 in bonds would bankrupt St. Olaf. In the end, Blanche decided did "the right thing" and didn't cash in the war bonds. When St. Olaf found out, they decided to build a statue in Blanche's honor out of their $100,000 emergency statue fund. Guess Chicago isn't that different from St. Olaf, huh?

    Then again, I'm gay, so everything reminds me of a Golden Girls episode.

  5. Let's see if Chicago Tonight -wttw 7pm- has anything on this. The guy from Crain's is a regular.

  6. Well this can't possibly be the only data source, but the City of Chicago's Department of Finance website has a chart that indicates as of March 2009 there is only 192 million and change dedicated to service of outstanding debt. I presume this would include whatever these TIF notes are that Jasso talks about.

    I know it's hard to find information on the City of Chicago website and it is even harder to link to it. Try this. Locate the blue menu bar and click on Your Government. Then locate City Departments. Then locate Finance. Now located the Debt link under Bond Issuances. Click on the Outstanding Debt link and you'll see the rather brief chart that lists the city's current long term outstanding debt.

  7. Brennan's link

    For giggles, I looked around a little more and found this highly entertaining bit of text:

    Under the leadership of Mayor Richard M. Daley, the City of Chicago has led the nation as the first local government to pursue and successfully close innovative leases of a toll road, an underground parking system, and a metered parking system. In total, those transactions have provided nearly $3.6 billion for Chicago residents and taxpayers.

    Feel free to look around the "Transaction Summary and Valuation Analysis"section for some good laughs.

    Like this one:

    In leasing the Chicago metered parking system for $1.15 billion, the City followed these same guidelines to produce an agreement which earned the highest possible financial return for Chicagoans while delivering improved service and infrastructure over the long term.

    So, is this all pure bullsh*t, or simple propaganda?

  8. Crains can clearly print this seemingly criminal diversion of funds and nothing happens???
    The city is desperately in need of funds and the mayor and aldermen would rather sponsor legacy projects?
    Sounds like time to rally at City hall with pick axes and torches! Old school crooks calls for an old school revolution!

  9. YEAH, lets bring back the gallows in lieu of the Picasso in Daly Plaza!

    j/k, I don't believe in killing.

  10. United Airlines is apparently being recruited by the City of Chicago to locate a major office in Willis Tower. The carrot and the stick: TIF money. Bob Fioretti is supporting it. He says the cost will pay for itself since the new employees will drop coin in the area and sales tax revenue increases will make up for it.

    Check this math. Do the TIFs ever recoup their costs? I know the first cited example is Millenium Park and its 300% cost overruns, but the only study performed was paid for by the City and it was in 2005 just as the projects were completed. All of its numbers were still projections.

    It also appears that CNA Financial did the same thing. Lean on the city to direct TIF money to it to rehab existing offices under the threat that it would relocate to another taxing authority.

  11. The ever vigilant (though unconfirmed vigilante) Ben Joravsky has the cover story in this week's Reader. He points out the Loop TIF which just expired spent several hundred million on Block 37 and what did the taxpayers get for it? An unfished hole in the ground.