Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and 16 co-sponsors have signed on to a resolution calling for use of the city’s surplus Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to bail out the Chicago Public Schools. It says, “a short term infusion of funds back into the CPS operating budget will offset drastic cuts,” and invest in Chicago’s future generations. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Budget and Government Operations chaired by Ald. Carrie Austin (34).
Rosa says many progressive aldermen, many of whom who are co-sponsors, have been interested in better accounting of TIF surpluses, including what has actually been allocated to projects. “We want the Department of Planning and Development to sit down and tell us what’s been budgeted for, and then allow us to see what could be surplus,” Rosa says. He said DPD estimated the TIF in his ward has a $24 million surplus alone.
While the resolution says active TIF districts had an aggregate balance of $1.38 billion dollars, it doesn’t the estimate TIF surplus citywide. But briefing documents from supporters of a similar resolution at the state level peg the surplus between $445 and $700 million.
Mayor Emanuel’s unofficial floor leader, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), is also listed as a co-sponsor, which Ald. Rosa said is because TIF money wouldn’t be taken away from already-earmarked projects. He believes a lot more aldermen are supportive than have signed on so far. Rosa says he’s trying to set up a meeting with Budget Chair Austin to discuss the resolution, but says she “has been great at making sure Budget Committee is a pool so aldermen can get an answer.”
A bill requiring Chicago to declare an annual surplus of all unencumbered TIF money could be introduced in Springfield as early as this week, Ald. Rosa predicts. “I expect that you’ll see some more announcements, pronouncements from state legislators in the coming week or so about that… But TIF surplus action doesn’t require the state to force us to act.”
It could be done at the snap of the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fingers, Chicago Teachers’ Union organizer Matthew Luskin argues. “We believe that the Mayor and BOE have real alternatives to high interest borrowing from Wall Street if they were willing to take a real stand and use the resources available from TIFs or by standing up to these predatory bank deals.”
Luskin says CTU has been in talks with state legislators to determine solutions. “We need to see new progressive revenue on the state level, expansion of education funding from Springfield coming to Chicago, but we also need to see action on city level of resources that are available,” he said, “They can take action right now.”