A new report released on Wednesday by the Cook County Clerk showed a record breaking $1.2 billion in TIF funds collected this year.
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money comes from property taxes in designated areas of the city. Originally the program was intended to help blighted neighborhoods struggling to attract investment – areas like Garfield Park and Englewood. However, for decades, our elected officials have found it more lucrative and politically advantageous to use the program as a slush fund to dump more money into downtown and other affluent parts of the city like Lincoln Yards.
The City creates TIF districts in wealthier and wealthier parts of the city, and the TIF fund increases accordingly.
The shockingly high amount of money that the TIF program took in this year, if used correctly, could still do some real good for the city. On Monday, Mayor Lightfoot made a commitment to greatly expand the number of nurses and social workers in Chicago Public Schools, but did not specify how she would pay for it. Lightfoot could immediately declare a TIF Surplus and could use that $1.2 billion to pay for the critical support staff that parents and teachers have been demanding for their students.
Putting TIF money back into our schools would be a great first step but we can’t stop there. The ever increasing size of the TIF funds should be a giant red flag that needs to be addressed. We need our new Mayor and City Council to take a good hard look at the TIF program and why $1.2 billion was sitting in a slush fund to begin with. We need to address the stark racial and economic inequality that is happening as a result of the misuse of the TIF program. And we need to focus on solutions that help Black and Latinx families across the south and west sides thrive.
Grassroots Collaborative has filed a lawsuit against the city over the misuse of the TIF program and the violation of the civil rights of our residents. You can support our efforts to reform the TIF program by making a donation here.