Updated: June 15, 2017
Since May 2015, the start of the current term of the City Council, aldermen have supported more than $92 million in property tax breaks for 60 development projects that qualify under Cook County’s property tax incentive program. Armed with six different property tax break programs, the City of Chicago has attempted to cajole and encourage commercial and manufacturing businesses to stay or relocate within the city boundaries, gathering promises to create around 7,100 new jobs and keep nearly 3,600 jobs from moving out of Chicago in return for a reduced tax bill. In a little over two years, the program has invested about $8,700 per promised job.
To better outline the prevalence of these tax breaks, The Daily Line assembled two years of data gathered through press releases and city ordinances. Most of it is boilerplate and provides limited, glossy detail. The finer points are provided in committee meetings through powerpoint presentations, or during the rare question and answer period between aldermen and DPD staff. But those project briefs are not publicly accessible.
While the incentives pass through the City Council, the program is managed by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. All applications are filed with the Assessor and reviewed by the local municipality. And yet, the Assessor’s Office only provides its data through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent by mail.
Soon, due to a rule change some of the most common tax breaks located in certain industrial corridors, Class 6b, will bypass the City Council. DPD will handle the local review and submit the recommendation to the County. That means some of the data The Daily Line relied on to compile this report–legislation records and corresponding mayoral press announcements–will be held by city administrators and likely only provided by FOIA request, as with most city information.