TIFs are a valuable tool in funding specific construction or development projects and should continue to be used. The original design of TIFs in Chicago (for Block 37) envisioned the TIF district being shut down after the project was completed. TIFs became a problem when they changed from project specific funding tools to a mechanism for simply removing vast amounts of money from the tax base and sources of off-book funds for unspecified uses. Use of TIF revenues for specific projects which, in turn, increase property tax receipts is smart fiscal policy. However, using TIFs to hijack money from other revenue-strapped local governments is unfair and unwise. We need to keep those TIFs alive that are needed to complete projects or development initiatives (such as school construction) and terminate the remainder. We need to earmark more specific projects for TIF funding, such as support for new manufacturing and the development of affordable housing, which result in improving the City’s economy and helping our residents live better and more productive lives.
I support the use of TIF Advisory Councils that will provide counsel to aldermen and city administrators on the allocation of TIF funds in each district. These councils will help enforce stricter selection criteria for subsidized projects and ensure additional monitoring and oversight of the millions currently tied up in individual TIF districts across the city. I support the use of Participatory Budgeting using a portion of TIF funds so that residents can discuss, vote on, and prioritize infrastructure and programmatic needs in their communities. Participatory Budgeting is currently being used to decide on spending priorities for a TIF district in West Humboldt Park and has brought out hundreds of residents to think about which investments would help them achieve the neighborhood they want. And I will engage residents in planning, approval, and oversight of TIF districts, by increasing transparency concerning TIFs and providing forum for resident input, both virtual and in person.
Absent specific, and publically supported plans, excess TIF funds should be returned to the tax base.
I have proposed extensive reform to the TIF program. After a full audit and a surplus is declared, I will host community meetings and forums so residents can have a say in how this money is best spent to benefit the neighborhoods that need it most.