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from Local Attorney, Michael H. Wasserman

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CITY CLERK DEBUT'S NEW TIF PROPERTY SEARCH

WHY EVERY CHICAGO PROPERTY OWNER OUGHT TO CHECK IT OUT

Those property tax bills every Cook County owner received over the last week or two? Did you notice how they have that very detailed table that shows you "who gets what" from your tax dollars? Pretty detailed, right?

Well maybe not so much, if your property is in one of the City's Tax Increment Financing districts (TIFs). TIFs cover nearly one third of the City now. TIF districts divert money from the regular property tax stream to help "combat blight" in those areas.

For years, there has been no public accountability or accounting of its use. Property tax bills do not show any amount of directed being directed to the TIFs (nothing). In reality, TIFs fund a budget nearly 1/6 as big as the "official" city budget. Some quirk in the law or other allows them to hide the numbers from us.

A stunning Chicago Reader expose on TIF financing here. Among the many revelations - City funds will be used to refurbish the Willis (fka Sears) Tower and to help new tenant United Airlines move in. The Chicago Tribune editorial board opines on the matter, here.

Enter City Clerk David Orr. The Clerk''s web site has a new TIF property search function. Enter any property tax identification number, and see how what portion of a tax bill is diverted from the City's budget through the TIF programs.

Progress Illinois took a look at the Mayor's property tax bill in the context of the TIF controversy. It's report, here. (a whopping 92 percent of his property taxes were redirected into the Near South TIF last year. By contrast, cash-strapped schools get a mere 3.9 percent of the Daley's property tax dollars).