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.