Letter: The TIF scam

To the Editor:

Tax Increment Financing may be the biggest scam in local government.

For several decades, businesses have been twisting the purpose of TIF – to redevelop blighted areas with high crime, abandoned and burned out buildings, etc. – to their own purpose. That purpose is to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense.

Woodstock’s City Council recently gave initial approval to more than $1.5 million in TIF incentives. This comes not long after the city created “TIF 2” to replace and expand “TIF 1,” which Mayor Brian Sager himself said “didn’t see as much positive benefit as we had hoped.”

Down Route 47 was the Huntley Outlet Center. Two years ago, it went vacant and the TIF that funded it expired. Taxpayers are getting nothing for the millions of dollars the center received during the 23 years the TIF existed.

Up Route 120 in McHenry is the Riverwalk TIF, which the Northwest Herald three years ago reported was “already in the hole about $750,000 for projects paid for using general fund dollars,” and which (almost incredibly) had lost value since it was created in 2002.

Local officials call TIF subsidies “economic development,” never thinking to ask how McHenry County grew for 150 years before “economic development” became a thing, and never caring how many times TIFs fail to meet their promise.

As we watch municipalities raising sales taxes, property taxes, utility taxes, sewer and water fees, etc., while handing millions of dollars to politically backed car dealers, real estate developers, and others, remember that “economic development” is a marketing term for crony capitalism – aka “crapitalism.”

Steve Stanek