Analysis: Chicago has $1.4 billion held in TIF accounts

An analysis from the TIF Illumination Project shows that the city of Chicago has about $1.44 billion parked in accounts associated with the city's 145 tax-increment financing districts.

Researchers with the TIF Illumination Project and City Bureau calculated the dollar amount after sifting through the city's 2017 documentation for each district.

Tax-increment financing districts accumulate funds by diverting property taxes away from government entities such as Cook County and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and into accounts controlled by the city of Chicago. State law allows the funds be used for infrastructure and real-estate development in disadvantaged communities, to spur ecomomic growth.

In a report about the analysis, its authors said that the city claims that the $1.44 billion is committed to various projects—and therefore isn't available to the government entities for which property tax dollars normally provide income. The authors "reject" the city's claim.

The TIF Illumination Project said that it found, through a series of public records requests, that the city had actually labeled the projects in question as "confidential and under discussion."

"The TIF funds can’t be both 'committed' AND 'under discussion'," the report said. "We call for a complete independent audit of the entire TIF program and its results made public."

The analysis also found that, during 2017, the city made $320.6 million in total expenditures from TIF funds. Of this amount, $74.9 million was spent in finance charges to three banks: Amalgamated Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and Zions Bank.

Report: 2017 TIF Analysis by TIF Illumination Project