Friday, December 3, 2010

Got Schoolin'? -OR Takling Taxes Taxes Crudulity

If you're not in or around Chicago, the name Ben Joravsky probably does nothing for you. Heck, in and around Chicago, he's not as known as he deserves to be. His beat for the Chicago Reader falls under the politcal coverage umbrella, but his work, while political at times, is more educational in its political commentary.

A decade, or more, ago, he began exploring and explaining how the T.I.F. game is played in Chicago.
The articles, collected as a series, amounts to a layman's primer on the pros and cons of Tax Increment Financing . TIFs were promoted as a win-win for redevelopment efforts in areas of "blight" , T.I.Fs have become the tool of choice for SOME savvy politicians and their political donors constituents where straight-forward graft and corruption might be noticed. There are limits to what useage TIF funds can be applied, but given proper motivation, clever skirts and finagles can usually be found to make even the most questionable expense overcome the limitations. It's all in the terminology and nomenclature.

That's not to say that all TIFs are bad, only that some are questionable and most are likely politically connected and motivated with an infection rate that is as yet uncontrolled. The infection they spread is to additionally burden properties within the taxing district. The rest take up the slack caused when formerly collected tax dollars no longer flow to the taxing bodies. Instead, those monies pool so the developer can recoup his development costs and to make future improvements within the TIF boundaries. These are long term deals that are often renewed, extended and reformulated. They cross many election cycles and suffer various manipulations, redefinitions and claims of wonderfulness.

Crook County property taxes, in general, defy explanation. When it's tax season in Northern Illinois, we have the tax fairy. The assessor rightfully claims that he doesn't make taxes rise, all he does is establish your property's value in relation to other properties to achieve your pro-rata share of the levy. The levy placers contend that they agonize over any increases, but have no choice. They must meet expenses. Critics and reformers run out of fingers to point. So when you mix it all together you get the ultimate mixed up situation.

This led Ben to "do the math" and wonder, Why Are MY taxes so high?


amber ladeira said...

Dear Watcher,
He's Ben Joravsky. Your spelling was close, but not correct. I only noticed because I've talked to him
several times, read him almost every week.

Best, A.

Rehctaw said...

mea culpa