Clerk Orr Statement On Progressive Caucus’ “Back to Basics” TIF Ordinance
I laud the Progressive Reform Caucus’ efforts to get the City’s Tax Increment Financing spending “Back To Basics.”
The aptly titled reform measure returns TIFs to their original, intended vision of using these public dollars for redevelopment projects impacting areas most in need.
There are several steps that must be considered:
First, we must sufficiently define what a blighted area means. Far too many City projects exist where TIF dollars have been used to serve already thriving areas. This is unacceptable and was never the original intent of TIFs.
Second, I urge the City Council to include TIF spending in the overall budgetary process. TIFs in the City of Chicago account for approximately 5% of the total City budget, yet remain difficult for the average taxpayer to discern the trajectory of these funds.
Additionally, this summer my office released an annual TIF Report which announced that City TIFs generated more than $460 million in property tax revenue this year alone, an $89 million increase over last year. Far too many TIF dollars are being generated and spent without the appropriate council budgetary oversight.
Finally, it’s time to bring overall TIF dollars and spending out of the shadows. We need true TIF accountability and transparency with penalties or defined ramifications for inappropriate spending and failure to comply with reporting requirements. The public deserves clear, definitive answers as to how hundreds of millions of TIF dollars are being spent annually. Such transparency and accountability will allow the taxpayers to determine whether their tax dollars are targeting the right priorities.
We must get TIF money to the areas it was originally intended to help and know where and why the money is being spent.
Simply put, we must get back to basics.
Cook County Clerk