Cheer up, it's for the shot-put | Bleader

Cheer up, it's for the shot-put

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Today's big economic indicator to watch out for:

"We have a lot of people who are confused because the current economic circumstances would lead them to believe that their assessment should go down," said county Assessor James Houlihan. "Their actual tax liability has gone up."

Yeah, kinda weird, huh? Fortunately, Ben Joravsky has written quite a bit on property taxes and TIFs, which are interconnected. (Should be helpful if you haven't been paying attention; some of the other reporting is a bit thin.) Some highlights:

Even Mayor Daley realizes that if he tries to reduce the debt by raising property taxes he’ll force more people out of their homes. When this year’s second installment tax bills come out in October, the howling will be particularly loud from south- and west-side communities like Engle­wood [Ed. note: the Trib's graphic points out that the projected increase in Englewood is 43.1%], Fuller Park, and North Lawndale. Cook County assessor Jim Houlihan anticipates tax bills will rise in these areas as much as 70 percent.

--"Get Off the Pot: There’s a solution to the city’s deficit. It’s not legal, but since when is that a problem?" (10/2/08)

In many ways the entire budget process—starting with this hearing and concluding with the City Council’s approval in November—is little more than a three-ring circus in which the mayor, the aldermen, reporters, and the public passionately wrestle over the portion of the budget that’s out in the open. The mayor vows to hold the line on spending while TIFs grow at a rate of roughly 30 percent a year, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars Daley is free to spend as he wants. I’m amazed that he still gets away with it.

--"It’s the Mayor, Stupid: The city’s facing a $420 million deficit, but as usual it’s somebody else’s fault." (9/28/08)

But I suspect the bulk of the games will be financed with money from the city’s TIF accounts. That’s why Daley’s proposed tax hikes are so critical. TIFs work by freezing the amount of property tax revenue the parks, schools, county, and other taxing bodies can draw on. As property values rise, the TIF funds get all the additional tax money the property generates. By calling for a hike in the property tax rate, Daley’s accelerating the amount of money pouring into TIF funds at the same time he’s looking to impress the IOC with Chicago’s ability to pay for the games—a master stroke.

--"Thar She Blows: The white whale lurking behind the mayor’s new tax increases" (10/25/2007)

Even Mayor Daley realizes that if he tries to reduce the debt by raising property taxes he’ll force more people out of their homes. When this year’s second installment tax bills come out in October, the howling will be particularly loud from south- and west-side communities like Engle­wood, Fuller Park, and North Lawndale. Cook County assessor Jim Houlihan anticipates tax bills will rise in these areas as much as 70 percent.

[snip]

What does this all mean for the south-siders who crowded into the South Shore Cultural Center to hear the mayor? Many of them probably won’t be able to afford to live in their neighborhoods for much longer. As Houlihan’s office has been warning, rising taxes together with high financing rates could sweep hundreds if not thousands of residents out of the city, particularly from west- and south-side communities like Lawndale, East Garfield Park, Woodlawn, and Washington Park.

If it doesn’t happen with this year’s tax bills, it will happen with next year’s. But of course the mayor didn’t mention that either.

--"The Storm to Come: As Chicagoans face tax hikes that will force people from their homes, Daley deflects blame onto state leaders" (8/31/2007)

The good news: we don't have to feel bad about gutting streets and sanitation.

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