Mediate TIF suit

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

Imagine that, a Cook County judge last week told the three parties in the lawsuit over TIF funds in Oak Park to find a mediator to help settle the disagreement over just how much the village owes the high school. And for good measure, the judge once again dismissed a key argument made by the school in its fight with the village.

We could not agree more with the judge's strong suggestion and have been saying for a year that our elected officials ought to get in a room and talk until this is settled. Leave the outside lawyers and the school finance wizards at home.

The village has acknowledged it owed Oak Park and River Forest High School $1.8 million from the downtown TIF fund. The school's interpretation of a badly crafted but unanimously approved agreement from a decade ago is that the village government owes it $3.3 million. Seems certain that more than $100,000 of the $1.5 million difference has already gone out the door to the outside lawyers.

The village and District 97, the elementary school district, came to a financial agreement on the TIF more than a year ago through direct conversation. Being reasonable, though, resulted in Dist. 97 being named as a defendant alongside village government when the high school filed its suit.

After press time, the school board at OPRF was planning an executive session to take Judge Peter Flynn's recommendation under advisement. We hope the school board proves ready to enter nonbinding mediation to resolve this dispute and end the spectacle of local governmental bodies in court suing each other over our tax dollars.

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OPer  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:12 PM

The argument to stop wasting tax payer's money falls flat upon the realization that OPRF represents RF tax payers as well as OP tax payers. Even under the naive assumption that all taxes go into the same pot, OPRF has a fiduciary responsibility to their RF constituents, and is meeting that responsibility by suing VOP. VOP has already admitted that they have screwed OPRF out of $1.8M. Why would anyone in their right mind believe their insistence that they don't actually owe the full $3.3M?

OP Resident  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:37 PM

@Tom: Check out Ben Joravsky's investigative reports on TIFs for the Chicago Reader. He's stated that a week doesn't go by without hearing from someone asking him to look into Oak Park's TIFs. One of his reports about the Village triggered an angry response from Trustee Ray Johnson. You may want to contact Ben @ The Reader for information and inspiration. TIFs provide politicians with a huge pot of money that they are free to spend with little oversight and accountability.

Frustrated Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 7:56 PM

How sad that a judge had to step in to tell the fighting children to stop wasting taxpayers' money suing each other. This is just one of the many things that's wrong with Oak Park. But, the pigs that feed at the taxpayer trough fight over the biggest chunks.

Tom from Chicago  

Posted: February 15th, 2011 2:50 PM

I am looking for citizen journalists to help me expose, reform and - where needed - repeal TIF districts. Any takes? Twitter: TIFreport Email: tom@tresser.com

OP Resident  

Posted: February 9th, 2011 2:27 PM

The Wednesday Journal has always sided with Village Hall regarding this dispute. Rather than demand that they open the TIF books for public inspection, it has fully supported the Village's position that it's nobody's business how they spend the TIF funds. Taxpayers would have been spared all these legal expenses if President Pope and each trustees had honored their pledge to the voters that they would conduct business with transparency and accountability.

John  

Posted: February 9th, 2011 11:52 AM

There is another, I believe, unspoken point here. OPRF views the VOP's current behavior as a threat to future revenue streams. That is another goal of the lawsuit, as VOP likes to leverage TIF funds by borrowing against future tax revenue streams. The TIF's life will be far beyond its expiration date, and will end only when the bonds are paid. Seems like $100K is a small price to get the village to come to their senses. Why can't they do like the other tax bodies and have a vote in it?

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