Facts can be scary, especially when they conflict with established preconceived ideas. One such scary fact is that the Oak Park TIF (tax increment financing) districts divert millions from the schools and other taxing bodies. For example, in 2008 84.89 percent of the property taxes for the Holley Court condominiums located on Marion Street went to the TIF to subsidize private developers and special interests. District 97 received 4.95 percent and District 200 received 4.62 percent of the property taxes paid by the Holley Court condominiums. If the condominiums were located outside the TIF district, 33 percent of the property taxes would have gone to District 97 and 30 percent would have gone to District 200. Zero percent would have gone to the TIF.

Another scary fact is that the TIF is a tax on everyone in Oak Park, not just the properties in the TIF districts. The TIF districts diverted $12 million of property taxes in 2008 away from all taxing bodies, including District 97. However, the $12 million needed to come from somewhere, so the taxing bodies raised taxes on everyone and cut services for everyone. Plus they cut their workforce to cover the shortfall. However, that was not enough, for the village will be raising property taxes on everyone again next year by 3 percent to help cover the $1.7 million budget deficit. In addition, District 97 will be asking voters for a tax increase in April 2011 instead of demanding that the village honor its contractual intergovernmental agreement with the school, which would alleviate some of their budget problems.

These facts are made even scarier when one considers that the TIF districts in 2009 had a combined deficit of $21.34 million, up from a deficit of $13.73 million in 2007. These facts have not stopped the village board from using the TIF credit card on TIF expenditures even though the taxpayers and village are broke. The TIF will never pay for itself when the village continues to borrow money to pay for TIF expenditures.

However, the scariest fact of all is that the village board does not publicly acknowledge these TIF facts. Sadly, that is understandable because the village board can and has indiscriminately spent TIF money with impunity. There is no enforcement mechanism in Illinois TIF law that will prevent or discourage one from improperly spending TIF money.

The village board routinely sends ups smokescreens claiming that those who are against the TIF are either against development or do not know all the facts. It is obvious that the village board, and the recipients of TIF funds, do not want the taxpayers to know the facts. Once the facts are known, it is undeniably evident that the TIF has outlived its usefulness. The time has come for the village board to end the TIF districts and give the property tax money to the much deserving schools, parks, library and all the taxing bodies.

David Barsotti is 13-year resident of Oak Park and a professional information technology project manager with a background in economics.

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