CHICAGO -- Chicago should declare a tax-increment financing surplus to free up some TIF revenue for the Chicago Public Schools as it grapples with a $1 billion deficit in its fiscal 2014 budget, Cook County Clerk David Orr urged.

TIF revenue rose almost 1 % in Chicago while falling by 3% in the suburbs, according to the 2012 TIF revenue report released by Orr’s office late last week.

A total of $723 million was collected in 435 active TIF districts in Chicago and suburban Cook, including $457 million in Chicago. Since 1986, $5.5 billion has been collected from Chicago TIFs.

Property tax revenues doled out to local taxing bodies is frozen when a TIF district is created and then growth is used to fund improvements in the designated area.

Orr urged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council to declare a TIF surplus to free some funds for the school district to help erase its red ink. Chicago has freed up $182 million over the last five years in surplus TIF revenue for the district, including $10.5 million last year.

“How do we explain to school kids that gym, music and art classes are cancelled while profitable businesses are tapping into the city’s tax base?” Orr said. “TIFs may have helped make downtown Chicago beautiful, but not enough is being done with TIF funds in the neighborhoods where they are needed most.”

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