The CTA’s falling apart, the CPS is in constant financial crisis, the city’s squandering hundreds of millions in TIF funds–and now we’ve lost a group that made it its business to keep tabs on this sorry mess.
The Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, one of the city’s only independent budget watchdogs, is shutting its doors. “We’re closing shop on Friday,” says Jacqueline Leavy, NCBG’s executive director. “Basically, our grant money dried up.”
Founded in 1988, the nonprofit NCBG scrutinized city, CTA, and CPS budgets. But perhaps its most significant achievement was the creation of a TIF fact book profiling the 140-plus tax increment financing districts in the city. Monitored only nominally, TIFs function as virtual slush funds for the mayor. The NCBG did its best to take the lid off.
According the Leavy, NCBG’s been feeling the budget pinch for the last few years (staff had been cut from ten to two). “Foundations change their priorities,” she says. “Some foundations have a rule they will only fund you for two or three or five years. We could not find replacement sources.”
The NCBG plans to keep its main Web site and CTA site operating for at least six months. It’s planning a farewell party on March 15 at 5 PM at Garfield Park Conservatory.