River Forest board revisits TIF fund dispute

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By Megan Dooley

Staff Reporter

Fireworks erupted as members of a divided village board Monday night readdressed an ongoing argument that TIF surplus money, distributed among a number of different entities, should have been earmarked entirely for Public School District 90.

Trustee Steve Hoke referred to a 1995 intergovernmental agreement between the village and Dist. 90 as proof that the village had entered into a binding agreement to give all extra TIF money to the school district after the fund expired.

But when it did expire at the end of 2010, some $3.3 million in surplus funds was instead divided among the various taxing bodies in the village, including $1.2 million to Dist. 90, $1.1 million to OPRF High School, and $355,000 to the village itself — which would be the normal procedure under TIF law.

Hoke said the language of the agreement stated that the entire sum should be given to Dist. 90.

"It was clear to me, without the shadow of a doubt" that it was the intention of the document, he said.

Moreover, Hoke said the village was contractually obligated to give a minimum of 18 months' notice to Dist. 90 and detail particulars for any TIF funded projects before launching those projects. He argued the village hadn't done so.

But Village President John Rigas said they weren't required to since the village was given unilateral discretion to choose the projects for which TIF money was allotted.

Village Attorney Lance Malina, who was also involved in the crafting of the intergovernmental agreement, agreed with Rigas, stating the village had made sure of that when it entered into the arrangement.

"This was very important to the village because it didn't know what projects were going to become available during the life of the TIF," Malina said.

After a lengthy and heated debate, other trustees voiced their impatience over the failure to settle the ongoing argument. Trustee Jim Winikates said the discussion among board members was senseless.

"If Dist. 90 thinks we have violated the agreements, I'm sure they're going to tell us," Winikates said. "And if they don't think we've violated the agreement, then this is a pointless discussion."

But Winikates said he believed the agreement was upheld. "I think you're chasing ghosts, Steve," he said to Hoke.

In other business, the board voted to spend $7,800 for an agreement with a local company to approach other local governments to assess their willingness to approve the installation of a community pump system that would send water back into the Des Plaines River in the event of a flood.

Village Administrator Eric Palm said after the meeting that such a plan would require a tremendous amount of intergovernmental agreement with such entities as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers. With a projected price tag of roughly $1-2 million, Palm said the preliminary work will provide the village with some direction on whether or not to pursue such a plan.

The board also approved $7,992 to begin a Community Rating System application, a point-scoring system that rates municipalities based on their flood-mitigation resources.

That rating number is then used by insurance companies to determine flood insurance rates for community residents. A better rating means lower insurance costs for villagers, though Palm warned the process could take time.

"It's good to start it, but it's not going to be a three-month process," he said.

Both measures are part of a flood-mitigation effort in response to a downpour last summer that dumped 8 inches of rainfall in the span of 18 hours, causing major flooding in a number of area homes.

These are documents cited by Steve Hoke at the Monday night RF board meeting relating to a 1995 intergovernmental agreement between the village and Dist. 90. 

1995 intergovernmental agreement

Reader Comments

2 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Tom from River Forest  

Posted: January 28th, 2011 10:33 AM

I am confused. Unless I did something wrong, there is no agreement attached to the article. The only documents that I was able to download were an agenda of the minutes from a joint meeting of the RF Village Board and the District 90 board. But even assuming that Mr. Hoke is right, I hope that District 90 exercises the appropriate discretion and does not spend one dime of taxpayer money pursuing this claim. All that would result from any litigation is that lawyers would get rich on our money.

Tom D.  

Posted: January 27th, 2011 1:39 PM

FACT-The IGA contains no provision regarding payment of a TIF surplus to Dist. 90 and does not obligate RF to pay it 100% of the TIF surplus as Steve Hoke contends. FACT-The law requires RF to distribute TIF surplus on a pro rata basis as it did. FACT-Dist 90 received more money with the pro rata TIF surplus than it otherwise would have under the IGA-$10,474M v. $10,293M. FACT/OPINION-Steve Hoke has placed his own personal interest before his duty as RF trustee and should resign immediately.

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