The Finance Committee pushed through a nine page agenda in a little over an hour, with few questions or testimony (save for George Blakemore), approving all of the TIF amendments, Special Service Area (SSA) appointments, and 2016 tax levy and budget requests for all but one of the SSAs listed on the agenda.

Members Present: Chairman Ed Burke (14), Joe Moreno (1), Will Burns (4), Gregory Mitchell (7), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Toni Foulkes (16), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Howard Brookins, Jr. (21), Rick Munoz (22), Roberto Maldonado (26), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27), Jason Ervin (28), Ariel Reboyras (30), Gilbert Villegas (36), Emma Mitts (37), Marge Laurino (38), Tom Tunney (44).
Non-membersSusan Sadlowski Garza (10)

Pension Fund Property Tax Levy Requests

Finance Chairman Ed Burke (14) however held up the 2016 property tax levy requests filed by four of the City’s pension funds, because Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown wasn’t on hand to speak on behalf of the ordinances. His staff assistant told Alderack Burke will directly introduce the property tax levy requests at today’s full City Council meeting.

Every year, as required by state law, the retirement boards for the City’s Police, Fire, Municipal, and Laborers’ pension funds submit a levy request to the City Council estimating the city’s share to the pension funds.

The retirement board for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) is requesting a $675.8 million payment to the fund, approximately $211.8 million more than Mayor Emanuel budgeted for the Police pension fund payment in his 2016 budget proposal.

The retirement board for the Firemen’s Annuity and Pension Fund is requesting a $284 million payment from the city, or $76 million more than the Mayor budgeted for next year.

When Mayor Emanuel unveiled his budget proposal last month, he based the city’s share on an amended funding timeline that has yet to be approved by Springfield, SB777. Under current state law (Public Act 96-1495) the City’s Police and Fire pension plans must achieve a 90% funded ratio by the end of 2040. The Police Fund is only 26% funded with a $11.73 billion unfunded pension liability, and the Firemen’s Fund is only 23% funded with a $4.513 billion unfunded liability.

The Mayor’s proposed legislation in Springfield, SB777, would stretch pension payments through 2020, in addition to pushing the 90% funding requirement to 2055.

The Laborers’ and Municipal Employees’ contribution requests are closer in line with the Mayor’s budget request at $28.5 million and $277 million respectively, according to the Finance Committee agenda. Those levy requests aren’t available online yet, although they were supposed to be directly introduced at yesterday’s committee meeting.

Special Service Area Budgets  

The Committee approved, without discussion or public comment, all but one of the property tax levy and budget proposals for various Special Service Areas (SSAs) across the city. SSAs, also known as Business Improvement Districts, take a portion of the local property tax levy and use the funds to maintain and beautify streets, attract business, and provide security, among other things.

Chairman Burke said he would hold the tax levy and budget plan for Belmont/Central (SSA #2), but would allow discussion on the other SSA plans.

“Now just like the wedding ceremony when the preacher says speak now or forever hold your peace, if any of you have any objections to what’s going on at any of these Special Service Areas, now is your chance to express your opposition,” Burke said before going down the list for all the SSAs, with a total property tax levy request of $8.53 million. The Committee approved plans in the omnibus without any objections.

Invoking Rule 14, Chairman Burke abstained from voting on the budget requests for 63rd St. (SSA #3), Back of the Yards (SSA #10), Stockyards (SSA #13), and 59th Street (SSA#59). The service provider for 63rd St. and 59th Street, the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, is a client of Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke. The Back of The Yards Neighborhood Council oversees the other two SSAs, but their connection with Burke is unclear.

Chairman Burke also abstained from voting on a property tax incentive and a loan agreement to help fund an affordable housing project in the Washington Park community.

The property tax break was a Class L real estate tax incentive for Maromon Car Company’s showroom in the landmark Motor Row district. The tax break, which passed in committee by voice vote, would support the renovation of the iconic building on 2230 S. Michigan Ave. by saving the company $4.4 million in taxes over 12 years.

In addition, Chairman Burke abstained from voting on a loan agreement with PNC Bank for the St. Edmund’s Meadows affordable housing development project in the Washington Park community (20th Ward).  

TIF Amendments

Department of Planning and Development Commissioners Lawrence Grisham and Mary Bonome took turns testifying on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) amendments, all of which passed. This includes ordinances providing TIF assistance to pay for capital improvement projects at four Chicago Public Schools, and ordinances the Department of Planning and Development introduced to change the future land use maps for the Woodlawn and Cicero/Archer TIFs, expand the boundaries of the Belmont/Central and 119th/1-57 TIFs, and extend the life of the Sanitary Drainage and Ship Canal TIF. (Details provided in Tuesday’s newsletter).

Neither DPD Commissioner provided testimony on the Woodlawn TIF amendment. Similar to a zoning change amendment, the ordinance the Committee approved would change the land use plan for the TIF district, making it possible for the University of Chicago to build a new campus for their existing Woodlawn Charter School. The proposal consists of a three-story school building serving 6th through 12th graders and adjacent outdoor athletic field.

U of C is in the midst of purchasing 19 parcels of City owned land within the TIF district to build the school. A negotiated sale for that land was taken up later in the afternoon by the Community Development Commission. According to the DPD staff report provided at the CDC meeting, the City plans to sell the land appraised at $755,000 (approximately $4.93 per square foot) to the University for $1. Michelle Nolan, the author of the DPD report, described the sale as a “public-private partnership”.