- AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
- Mayor Rahm’s pension plan socks it to geezers, jacks up your taxes, and increases the flow of slush to his TIFs.
As you may or may not have read in the papers, Mayor Emanuel’s in a big hurry to have the state enact his pension plan. He says it’s good for the city.
Uh-oh—beware of anything the mayor says is in your best interest.
Be really worried when the mayor’s in a hurry.
The bill will, among other things, cut payments to municipal retirees, jack up property taxes, and give the mayor more slush funds to play with.
Actually, the mayor doesn’t mention that final point about the slush funds. Nor is he ever likely to, as it involves a certain program he supposedly reformed.
And that program goes by an acronym that begins with a T, ends with an F and has an I in the middle. Let me pause while we all figure it out . . .
Yes, sweet taxpayer, there’s a TIF angle to the mayor’s pension plan. It benefits the mayor and screws you, as the tax increment financing program generally does.
I’ll be brief.
The property tax you pay is basically determined by multiplying the tax rate by your property’s value. If your property’s value is $100,000 and the tax rate is 10 percent, then you pay $10,000 in property taxes.
In a TIF district, a portion of the property taxes is diverted to bank accounts controlled by the mayor. He’s supposed to use that money to generate development in blighted, low-income communities.
But the law’s so riddled with loopholes that he’s pretty much free to spend it wherever he pleases. Which is why he gets to spend at least $55 million on a hotel for Marriott in a gentrifying South Loop neighborhood.
If the mayor raises the overall tax rate to fund his pension bailout, he is of course raising the rate in TIF districts thereby. That means more property tax dollars will flow into the TIF bank accounts. Think of it as more slush for the fund.
As one TIF expert told me, “You might call it a secondary benefit to the pension plan.”
Well—a secondary benefit to the mayor, anyway.
Remember, the mayor says he’s cutting benefits for geezers cause Chicago’s dead broke and he wants to limit the burden on beleaguered taxpayers.
Who are still getting a little more beleaguered.
But, as I like to point out, there’s “broke” as in “We gotta make some retired Water Department clerk live on less” and broke as in “Ah, what the hell—might as well add a little more slush to the pile.
My TIF expert tells me that legislators could add language to the pension bill that directs the mayor to divert extra TIF revenue created by the pension tax hike back into city coffers so it could be used for police, fire department, or schools—you know, stuff you want.
But I’m sure that will never, ever happen, for a host of reasons, starting with the hissy fit of massive proportions that Mayor Rahm would throw if someone even suggested it.
So in short . . .
Mayor Emanuel cuts benefits to retirees, jacks up your property taxes, and brings in more cash for things like the River Point office building in the West Loop, the Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park, the aforementioned South Loop basketball arena for DePaul, and that South Loop hotel for Marriott.
Life is good for the mayor.