“TIF” stands for “Tax Increment Financing,” a special tool that a city such as Chicago can use to generate money for economic development in a specific geographic area. TIFs allow a city to re-invest all new property tax dollars in the neighborhood from which they came for a 23-year period.

These “new” revenues arise if new development takes place in the TIF district, or if the value of existing properties rises, resulting in higher tax bills. These funds can be spent on public works projects or given as subsidies to encourage private development. But TIFs can also make it easier for a city to acquire private property and demolish buildings to make way for new construction.

In April 2009, the “TIF Sunshine Ordinance” introduced by Alderman Scott Waguespack and Alderman Manuel Flores (then 1st Ward Alderman) passed City Council. The ordinance made all TIF Redevelopment Agreements and attachments available on the City’s website in a searchable electronic format. The proposal intended to improve the overall transparency of TIF Agreements, thereby facilitating significantly increased public accountability.

The resolution cited the case of Republic Aluminum, Inc./Republic Windows & Doors Inc. In 2000 Republic Windows and Doors entered into a TIF Agreement that simultaneously stated two different job commitments. The documents that revealed this incongruity could only be obtained through a potentially lengthy process involving a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) application and the mere existence of such documents would only be apparent to those with direct knowledge of the amended agreement.

This ordinance has granted “access to all agreements, sub-agreements, amendments, and required reports associated with TIF agreements,” and in doing so, “will provide greater public involvement, greater oversight and increased understanding of TIF Redevelopment Agreements”

Links

Cook County Clerk TIF Information

City of Chicago TIF Information

Chicago Reader TIF Archives

Files

TIF Sunshine Ordinance

Aldermanic TIF Briefing Nov. 2009