TIF surplus is gone, but River Forest board squabbles live on

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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

The River Forest village board sparred verbally Monday night after members postponed an after-the-fact discussion of its TIF-surplus financial obligations to District 90. Steve Hoke, a member of the board minority, asked that original drafting documents from the Tax Increment Finance district be produced.

Other trustees appeared annoyed at Hoke, asking him "what exactly are you trying to do here?"

"The contract says what it says," said Hoke, who asserts that the original 1985 TIF contract language specifically says any surplus should be given to District 90. "I am asking as a citizen and as a River Forest taxpayer."

"You sacrificed that when you were elected [to the position of trustee]," shot back Trustee Mike Gibbs.

"I in no way sacrificed or gave up my interests as a taxpayer," said Hoke, who is not running for re-election in the spring.

The $3,265,917 TIF surplus is already gone. It was distributed recently on a pro-rata basis to all of the taxing bodies of the village. This includes $1.7 million to District 90, as well as close to $1.5 million to District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School. Other bodies that appear on local tax bills got a small cut, like the Mosquito Abatement District and the TB sanitarium. The Cook County government was refunded $75,000 and the village of River Forest got $335,000 to put into the general fund.

District 90 sent a letter in December thanking the village for the TIF money, but mentioning that one of its constituents was raising issues with the amounts released. District 90 is having its attorney look over the TIF documents.

At the meeting, Hoke asked to see the original 1985 drafting documents for the TIF and Trustee Cathy Adduci asserted the board should spend no more money on legal bills for the TIF surplus matter. When told that retrieving 25-year-old documents from off-site storage might cost $60 or $70, Hoke said, "I'll pay for it myself. I'll write a check."

The discussion was tabled until the Jan. 18 meeting.

"If District 90 sues the village for the surplus, they don't have it. They already gave it away." Hoke said later, by phone. "They only have the escrow money for [the Lake and Lathrop site pledged to Keystone Property developer ] Tim Hague." The village put aside $1.9 million for environmental cleanup and a subsidy for the TIF-district Lake and Lathrop site.

In other business, the board agreed to sell at auction four village vehicles after Village Manager Eric Palm recommended that a $400 monthly transportation allowance for himself and the $300 for the Public Works director would be cheaper than driving village-owned cars.

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Tom Dash from River Forest  

Posted: January 14th, 2011 8:42 AM

This is another example that staff at Village is not doing their jobs right. The surplus should not have been this big. According to the legislation, every year surplus should be reported, if any. The village can be penalized if somebody in the State finds out about this.

C.L  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 8:50 AM

Question to the RF Board. Why did they sign off on a $400 month allowance for the new administrator and $300 a month for public works manager? Cutting this totally out is the answer, not saying we are doing this RATHER than give the Government staffer a CAR. RF Board just passed a tax increase, why was this not CUT out - as these are needless expenses. Last I heard the Board works for the RF Taxpayers.

Albert from RF  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 12:29 PM

If State Law required a pro rata share of TIF proceeds upon completion of TIF - than that is what MUST Occur. However, if contract is Valid & legally trumps what State says absent such an agreement among agencies, this is a whole other story!! Wednesday Journal (re editorial TEAM) should be pursuing this - NOT taking sides. Must be Investigated & Reported. FACTs around what is Legal Standing of contract. This is the Real Story here. Government in action, and they work for Us taxpayers

Tom D.  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 9:59 AM

Steve Hoke should resign immediately. His duty as a trustee is the residents of River Forest. He is in clear violation of that duty with his continued pursuit of TIF money for District 90. No matter what a 25-year-old contract says, the law required a pro rata distribution of the TIF money. Continuing to press this matter on behalf of District 90 as Hoke is doing is irresponsible and counter to his duties as a trustee. Resign as a trustee and then he can freely express his personal views.

Dan Lathrop from River Forest  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 9:38 AM

C.L. is correct!!! The new Village Manager is in LaLa Land. Village Mananger, Public Works Director and other Department Heads are not entitled to a Village Vehicle...only Public Safety Supervisors are entitled by the Law. These is just another additional pay for these employees and why not cut them since the Village is broke. Why always blame Hoke, I don't have to remind you that we freedom of expression in this country.

C.L  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 7:02 AM

First Step for the new Village Manager is positive,doing away with old Police cares but why even get $400 a month car allowance. This is government living in a fantasy. As to Hoke, some say more of the same. I look at it as - Village MUST live up to Inter governmental Agreements. It is the LAW. Curious though why the Village does not want to provide the agreement?

River Forest  

Posted: January 11th, 2011 11:55 PM

Good idea by Village Manager Eric Palm. Every little bit helps in this tight economy. As for Steve "The Joke" Hoke, I'm counting down the days until this obstructionist is gone. This dude is in serious need of some Valium.

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