For the last week or so, Mayor Emanuel's aides have been holding private briefing sessions with aldermen regarding the upcoming spectacle known as passage of the city's budget.
So thank you, Deep Throat, for sharing it with me.
On page 77, you can find a reference to the tax increment financing program's surplus, or, as the analysis calls it, the "aggregate balance."
The TIF program is the one where the city raises the amount you pay in property taxes in the name of things you like—such as schools—and sends the money to a slush fund controlled by the mayor. Each year the slush fund accumulates more money than the mayor's obligated to spend, which results in the aforementioned surplus.
As we all know, Mayor Daley invented this scam. He pretty much got away with it because times were relatively good and he had enough sense not to wage war against his fellow Chicagoans.
Alas, Mayor Emanuel's a different kind of ruler and in the last two years he's gone hog-wild closing schools, firing teachers, and cutting budgets so that some schools can't afford toilet paper.
It's gotten to the point where parents, principals, teachers and students are so desperate that they're zeroing in on those TIFs and demanding that the mayor dip into the surplus to help the beleaguered schools.
Which brings us to page 77 of the annual financial analysis.
According to the report: "The City's TIFs had an aggregate balance of $1.71 billion at the close of 2012. However, $1.53 billion of this balance is reserved for payments due in connection with current or planned projects."
Translation: the mayor's willing to part with no more than $180 million or so.
When the mayor sends back unused TIF money, it gets divided among the taxing bodies from which he got it in the first place. The schools give roughly 53 percent of the tax dollars that feed the TIFs. So that means the mayor's signaling that he'll give no more than $95 million to the schools. And probably not even that.
Now, is $1.53 billion really dedicated to projects, as in specific contracts the mayor can't break? I doubt it. But no one really knows—except the mayor. And he's not saying.
Personally, I think it would make a great subject of investigation for inspector general Joe Ferguson. Apparently, my man Andy Shaw—CEO of the Better Government Association—thinks the same way. So what do you say, Joe? How can you say no to me and Andy Shaw?
I'm guessing the mayor's holding back the reserves for things like the cockamamie deal for a DePaul basketball arena and hotel in the South Loop.
As always, the schools get the scraps.