CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing using Tax Increment Financing funds to build a new library in the Albany Park neighborhood and a parking lot for a school in Bronzeville.
Under the proposals, $15 million TIF funds would subsidize the construction of a new 16,000 square-foot branch library at Kimball and Foster avenues. It would replace the 48-year-old facility that now stands at 5150 N. Kimball Ave., which would be demolished.
The plan project would generate eight full-time jobs and 35 temporary construction jobs, according to the Mayor’s office.
Emanuel is also proposing $200,000 in TIF funding for Donoghue Elementary School, 707 E. 37th St., for a new parking lot it would share with a nearby private housing development.
The parking lot would be built on undeveloped Board of Education property adjacent to the 48-unit Oakwood Shores Terrace affordable housing development. The developer of the housing project would contribute $150,000 to the school in exchange for allowing visitors to the housing complex to park in the school lot.
A Mayor’s office news release did not specify whether the money would come from existing TIF districts, or whether new ones would be created.
The Albany Park library site is already within the borders of the existing Lawrence-Kedzie TIF, which was designated in 2000. The Donoghue school site is within the Madden-Wells TIF project, which was set up in 2002 to redevelop land formerly occupied by public housing developments.
In a TIF district, property tax dollars for schools, parks, and other taxing districts are frozen for at least 23 years, so that all property tax increases afterward to go into a fund to improve struggling neighborhoods.
The TIF program has been under heavy criticism for several years.
Notably, critics such as Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky say TIFs amount to a slush fund for the mayor. Joravsky has been writing articles criticizing the TIF program for several years.
Most recently, city Inspector General Joe Ferguson issued a report that raised questions about whether retired Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration pressured companies that received TIF subsidies to donate to former First Lady Maggie Daley’s After School Matters charity.
Meanwhile just on Tuesday, a group of aldermen, along with the Chicago Teachers Union and some community groups, rallied for TIF reform. The city currently has hundreds of millions of dollars of unallocated TIF money sitting in various TIF districts, and the aldermen say those funds should be returned to the city budget.
Mayor Emanuel has already taken some steps to reform the city’s TIF program.