One TIF Problem Solved, Dozens More To Go


Today we’re giving a Watchdog bark-out to the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 – and the Park Ridge City Council and Staff – for resolving their dispute over that economic black hole commonly known as the Uptown TIF.

As reported by the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“City: New agreement will lower Park Ridge TIF payments to schools,” June 23), it looks like the City and District 64 will be amending their existing intergovernmental revenue-sharing agreement that was entered into back when the Uptown TIF was created in 2003.

Interestingly enough, we believe that H-A article may be the very first time either local newspaper has referred in print to that Uptown boondoggle as being “the failed Uptown Tax Increment Financing District.” [Emphasis added.]

“Failed” is an apt description of was once touted as a once-in-a-lifetime “investment” of tens of millions of dollars of long-term bonded debt by the City’s “ready, fire, aim” cheerleaders back then: mayors Ron Wietecha and Mike Marous; a substantial bobblehead majority of the then-14 aldermen Council; Rasputin-like city manager Tim Schuenke; and all the “buy us more retail” folks populating the Chamber of Commerce.

Ironically, according to some of the financial projections circulated back then by Schuenke and the City’s hired-gun consultant, S.B. Friedman, 2015 was supposed to be the year that the TIF was to have started generating enough revenue to cover all of its debt service payments and actually produce a profit. Instead, the City is currently looking at a projected deficit/loss of over $15 million by the time the TIF expires in 2027.

The good news is that deficit/loss figure is down almost $8 million since the City’s current TIF consultants first calculated it, presumably because of some of the advanced bond refunding already done and taking into consideration the anticipated savings that the City is projecting from revising its revenue-sharing agreements with D-64, Maine Township High School District 207, and the Park Ridge Park District.

D-64 attorney (and former School Board member) Ares Dalianis noted a general consensus by the City and D-64 that “the language of the existing agreement is a little ambiguous” – in no small measure because that agreement contemplated that the Cook County Clerk would annually calculate the Equalized Assessed Value (“EAV”) for the new property growth in the TIF district, apparently without anyone at the City or D-64 actually confirming that fact with the Clerk’s office.

That’s because the mayors and the folks on the Council back then were so intent on getting the TIF passed and the project built that they were like cats in heat (or like folks with personal financial interests?). And the go-along-to-get-along D-64 Board members back then were more than happy to accept the City’s financial bribery and waive their well-founded objections to the TIF.

That apparently resulted in a slap-dash agreement with “ambiguous” terms that was negotiated in…you guessed it…closed sessions and rubber-stamped by both the Council and the School Board without the kind of public vetting that today’s City Council would be expected to require. 

Rubber-stamping is what used to pass for “due diligence” at City Hall. And that’s what still might pass for “due diligence” at D-64 – except that it’s almost impossible to tell for sure because that Board still conceals much/most of its deliberations about the important stuff in closed sessions and/or by not publishing relevant documents.

Unfortunately for all involved, however, the County “only measures new property [growth] at the end of a TIF district and there is not an accepted methodology on measuring new property during the life of the TIF,” according to Dalianis, and confirmed by City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton in slightly stronger terms back in 2013.

“The Cook County Clerk has never and will never, as a matter of fact and law, determine or recognize new property within the Uptown project area.”

Not surprisingly, none of the previous three city managers (Schuenke, Jim Hock and acting-CM Juliana Maller) seems to have made any effort to find that out. Instead, Maller came up with a bunch of mojo calculations of what the City owed to the other local taxing bodies, which now appear to have been flat-out wrong. But because Maller vouched for them and nobody questioned them, they became S.O.P. for the City and D-64 thereafter.

During her short tenure as the City’s finance director, Allison Stutts started looking into Maller’s calculations. But it was her successor, Kent Oliven, who in his even shorter tenure as finance director (relying on his prior experience with TIF and TIF accounting) suspected that those calculations were bogus. That led to the City’s hiring of Kane McKenna and KM’s confirmation of their bogusness.

That led to the dispute between the City and D-64 over the difference between what the City actually owed and what the City had paid based on Maller’s calculations of the incalculable, which payments continued even after she packed up for Hanover Park.

With such a ridiculous history as backdrop, therefore, it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that the current Council and Staff, and the current D-64 Board and Administration, were able to overcome their predecessors’ buffoonery and reach a resolution without resort to costly litigation that would have bled the taxpayers from both sides.

Well done, folks!

To read or post comments, click on title.

4 comments so far

It is good to see that this problem was resolved without a lawsuit. From what I was reading and hearing for the past year I feared the city and the school district would be locked in an “only the lawyers win” lawsuit. Applause all around.

BIG thanks to ALL involved!

A 23 year TIF problem with 12 more years to go and I see the city is considering a major water supply “investment” with Evanston that needs a 40-year payout. WTF?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We just published a new post re the Evanston water agency.

This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.

I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented
it. Too cool!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you.

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


(optional and not displayed)