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Cook County TIF districts’ 2020 tax tally: $1.5 billion

A new Cook County report details how revenue collected from Cook County’s hundreds of tax increment financing districts rose 11.6% for the 2020 tax year.

The Chicago skyline, viewed from the inbound Eisenhower Expressway. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Cook County’s tax increment financing districts sites will collect almost $1.5 billion in revenue for the 2020 tax year, even as 14 of those districts were eliminated, a new report shows.

The Cook County Real Estate and Tax Service report, released Thursday, detailed how TIF revenue rose 11.6% countywide compared to last tax year. The county has 443 TIF districts, though over $1 billion of this year’s TIF revenue comes from 132 districts in Chicago.

In Cook County, the first installment of 2020 taxes was due March 2, 2021; the second, on Oct. 1, 2021.

Tax increment financing is one way local government spur economic growth in blighted areas. Property tax collections in a TIF district are frozen at a certain level; taxes collected above that amount can be used toward specific projects. However, that also means other taxing districts, such as schools, don’t benefit from the additional property taxes collected.

“The proceeds from TIF districts can be a great benefit for the development of the respective TIF districts and communities, but it can be a mixed bag for taxpayers,” Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said.

Yarborough added that many taxpayers in Cook County don’t know they live in a TIF district, nor do they realize the effects those districts have on the distribution of tax revenue.

“We are encouraging Cook County residents to arm themselves with information about their local TIF districts, so they’re not surprised when they see those deductions on their tax bills,” Yarbrough said.

This office building is rising at Fulton Market and Sangamon Street. City officials have used projects funded by tax-increment financing to encourage development in the former meatpacking district.
An office building under construction in August 2020 in Fulton Market. City officials have used projects funded by tax-increment financing to encourage development in the former meatpacking district.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

About two-thirds of TIF revenue was generated in Chicago, and over half of that $1 billion was generated by just 10 districts, most located near the central city, said Tanya Anthofer, manager of the city’s tax extension department.

Of Chicago’s top-10 grossing TIFs, each generated over $20 million this year, with two of them, the LaSalle/Central TIF and the CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization TIF, bringing in over $100 million.

Anthofer said as equalized assessed values keep rising, TIF revenue also will increase in the coming years.

The highest grossing TIFs in Chicago account for over half of the 1 billion in TIF revenue generated by the cities 132 districts.
The highest grossing TIFs in Chicago account for over half of the 1 billion in TIF revenue generated by the cities 132 districts.
Cook County

Chicago TIF revenue accounted for 38% of the total tax collected by the city for tax year 2020. And across Cook County, TIFs account for 9.1% of the $16.1 billion in property taxes issued to Cook County residents last year.

“Each year we present this report, it’s a real eye opener when I look at the amount of money that’s gone into these TIFs,” Yarbrough said.

While 13 new TIF districts were added in suburban Cook County, 14 others were terminated, including four in Chicago. In the previous tax year, revenue from those expired TIFs ranged from $19 million in Rosemont’s River Road district to $300,000 in Chicago’s 60th Sreet/Western Avenue district.

After a TIF is retired, remaining funds are surrendered to the Cook County treasurer, who distributes them proportionally to all of the taxing districts affected by the TIF.

Anthofer said it’s important taxpayers ask their local government questions about the special districts.

“Some good questions that taxpayers can ask of their municipality are ‘What is the purpose of this TIF?... How is this benefiting me the taxpayer, and how long is this TIF going to last?’” Anthofer said. “Those are questions I think engaged taxpayers should be asking.”