CivicLab co-founder: TIF funds should be redistributed to governments
The Tax increment financing (TIF) program is nothing more than a slush fund controlled by Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, according to Tom Tresser, civic educator and public defender, who said TIFs are sitting on $1.4 billion.
“Major local media refuses to cover our work or attend any of the dozens of public meetings held around the city that we've been invited to,” Tresser told the Chicago City Wire.
Tresser is co-founder of the CivicLab. Its TIF Illumination Project investigates Chicago and Illinois TIFs and has been invited to present at 51 public meetings since it was founded in 2013.
Tresser said that TIF programs work by using funds from property taxes each year until the TIF expires. That same amount of money is accumulated over time and grows from when the TIF originally started.
“In 2016, those TIFs scraped away $493 million,” Tresser said. “That’s $493 million in property taxes. That’s a lot of money to take off of the table. Now what happens to that money is the subject for great debate.”
According to the CivicLab TIF Illumination project, Tresser has sent numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the city, and a common response is that it recognizes there is a lot of TIF money but the fund is already committed to other projects, he said.
“I say it is a slush fund because you cannot find any definitive paperwork that shows where the claim is on those funds,” Tresser said.
“So where will that money go if I would have it my way?” Tresser asked. “That $1.4 billion would be redistributed to the units of government according to the percentage of property taxes they are supposed to get in any normal situation.”
Tresser described a common scenario of the Illinois school system, which is usually in the most need for extra funding.
“So for example, the Board of Education gets about 56 percent or 56 cents of every dollar spent on property taxes,” Tresser said. “So I say the BOE is owed $750,000 and they did not have to lay off 1,000 professionals.”