While more than $1 billion is routed each year into the state's 970
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, it's often unclear to
taxpayers exactly how the cash gets there. In Chicago, The Reader's Ben Javorsky has done the yeoman's work
of documenting the lack of ...
While more than $1 billion is routed each year into the state's 970 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, it's often unclear to taxpayers exactly how the cash gets there. In Chicago, The Reader's Ben Javorsky has done the yeoman's work of documenting the lack of accountability that pervades the TIF system. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley has also highlighted the problem, most recently in his Progress Illinois column:
The single worst aspect of the TIF system in Cook County is that taxpayers residing in the districts have no idea how much of their tax payments end up in TIF accounts. Indeed, while TIF is listed on every bill alongside the agencies receiving property taxes, the line always reads $0.00. This is due to a quirk in the way the County Clerk has historically calculated tax rates. But as a consequence, the taxpaying public is misinformed.
Now, a new report (pdf) by the Illinois Department of Revenue suggests how the TIF veil could be lifted.
Published last week, the report notes that the TIF information made available on most property tax bills is confusing taxpayers and examines ways in which the state could ensure greater transparency. Their primary suggestion -- which they call the "simplest and least costly approach" -- is to enact legislation that requires specific TIF information be made available on the Internet at a state-run website. Currently, the TIF amount is listed as a line item on the bill but is not available online; under this option, the state would require counties to print the web address on each tax bill as well.
A second option, which mirrors Quigley's proposed ordinance in Cook County, would require a separate mailing at the county level that "provides aggregated TIF information and includes a state web site address where additional information about TIF redevelopment projects and expenditures is located." The obvious downside to this approach would be additional printing and postage costs.
Either idea would be a huge step forward for this byzantine funding apparatus.