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City responds to D65 School Board Statement Re 5/5ths TIF District.

The D65 School Board published the following statement earlier this week in response to City Council's vote in favor of the 5/5ths TIF district in Evanston's 5th ward. The City Council approved the Tax Increment Financing district 5-4, but rejected an intergovernmental agreement with the school district.


Read the City's response following.


(And read this excellent piece by Jonah Meadows of Evanston Patch that explains TIFs and the controversy.)

 

D65/City of Evanston IGA and Opposition to the 5/5ths TIF


Dear District 65 Community -


Several weeks ago our Board shared a message with our community to relay our significant concerns regarding the Five-Fifths TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposed by the City of Evanston. At last week’s meeting, the City Council approved the controversial TIF on a split 5-4 vote and rejected the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with District 65.


Our two parties have been in negotiations and working towards reaching an agreement for months now. Our team has been under the impression that the City was negotiating in good faith based on its actions and representations that were in support of the agreement. While the City and its alderpersons have every right to express their disagreement, the rejection by the City Council and lack of transparency came somewhat as a surprise last week and the District had no opportunity to appropriately respond.

This is extremely disappointing and, unfortunately, not the first time that City actions have been misleading. Earlier this year the City failed to act on putting a public safety plan in place, in response to racist threats, attacks, and a homophobic hate crime directed to specific board members and district administrators, despite significant collaborative efforts and gestures between both parties. Similarly, negotiating seemingly shared terms with legal and political representatives, and then subsequently declining to take the final steps to formalize them. This pattern erodes trust and negatively impacts our entire city and most often economically marginalized communities and communities of color. The TIF agreement would have held both parties accountable to one another regarding affordable housing, combating gentrification, and providing other protections the City claims to support in the name of equity.


Specifically, taxes generated from the Trulee property (1815 Ridge), which has already been developed with luxury senior homes and has no need for TIF dollars, will be diverted to the TIF and not to taxing bodies. These are significant dollars the District could use to help fund current programming and services. Based on the District’s financial outlook, as we have communicated, more reductions will be necessary this year in order to balance the budget and continue efforts to resolve the structural deficit. Significant tax dollars generated from a luxury development solely funding a small area of the City rather than District schools is absolutely unacceptable. The District intends to aggressively pursue a revenue sharing agreement with the City to properly allocate tax revenues from the TIF, which is in the best interest of all taxpayers.


Additionally, the approval of the TIF leaves District 65 and other taxing bodies in jeopardy of losing substantial tax dollars generated from the TIF for the next 23 years. Based on our estimates and financial assumptions of the market value of the Trulee property (which has yet to be assessed), this could be a loss of approximately $900,000 annually for District 65 alone.


The City has in the past stated that it would consider a fair tax allocation of tax dollars including at the Trulee site and if the Civic Center is developed, which is also in the TIF. That commitment was included in the IGA, which, again, the City rejected.


It is our belief that the City’s actions continue to threaten efforts to create a stronger Evanston and more equitably serve residents who have been disproportionately harmed by racist policies and practices. Further, their recent actions now have the potential to negatively impact the financial well-being of our schools and subsequently our students and families (also their constituents).


It remains critical that our local institutions continue to work together and with the wellness of all residents, including our children, in mind. The District intends on holding the City to its commitment and encourages residents to contact their alderperson to support reaching an agreement with our School District.

We thank our D65 families, staff, and residents for their continued commitment to our students and schools.


Sincerely,


Anya Tanyavutti, President Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, Vice President Joey Hailpern Sergio Hernandez Soo La Kim Donna Wang Su Marquise Weatherspoon

Statement from the City of Evanston (See D65 school board statement following).

 

Statement from the City of Evanston


On Monday, October 25, the Evanston City Council voted to approve the creation of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District #9, also known as the Five-Fifths TIF. The Council’s vote followed approval of a Joint Review Board representing all governing bodies within the TIF District and months of robust community discussion with stakeholders who brought good faith concerns about potential unintended negative consequences of passage of this TIF.

The City took these concerns, including those raised by District 65, seriously, and pursued multiple highly unusual strategies to address these potential problems. These strategies included extensive good faith negotiations between City of Evanston and District 65 leadership to establish an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) in advance of the vote, as well as the drafting and adoption of a resolution (88-R-21) that expresses the City’s commitment to the goals that underlie this TIF, namely investment in people and places that have been historically marginalized.


District 65 leadership shared these goals but preferred a different mechanism to enforce them, and out of respect for this desire, the City Council delayed an anticipated September vote on the TIF to allow more time for negotiation on a potential IGA.


Eventually, City and District 65 negotiators were able to reach an agreement and present a proposed IGA to City Council for consideration. The City Council’s decision, on a 5-4 vote, not to approve the IGA, is a reflection of the difficulty of resolving a subject like this via a contract with a completely independent government body, and the City’s devotion of significant time and effort to achieve an agreement is a reflection of its commitment to a strong partnership with District 65. Although the negotiations did not ultimately result in a signed IGA, they did have a significant influence on the content of Resolution 88-R-21 that meets the spirit of District 65 and the City’s shared goals.


The resolution adopted by City Council includes two aspects unique to TIF Districts in Illinois:

First, it includes the City’s stated public commitments to use TIF funding to support existing homeowners, renters and landlords within its boundaries, specifically directing funds to affordable housing, residential housing repairs, public spaces and infrastructure, workforce development, and business district improvements.


Second, it includes the creation of a TIF Advisory Committee, composed of seven members, which will review proposed TIF district expenditures prior to City Council consideration. This additional community engagement and oversight will ensure proposals align with Resolution 88-R-21, the TIF ordinances, and all of the City's committed public goals.


The City has always taken District 65’s concerns seriously, including the deeply troubling threats and vandalism experienced by some school board members earlier this year, and is committed to continuing to work together to develop solutions that allocate finite resources effectively and equitably, ensuring that no one organization or individual receives resources above and beyond any other. It is regrettable that District 65 and the City have in the past sometimes disagreed about how to best effectuate this outcome, but the City stands ready to resume those discussions at any time.


The City shares District 65’s commitment to safety, equity and to ensuring that every child and every family has what they need to reach their full potential — both inside and outside the classroom. That not only means access to great schools and teachers, it means access to enrichment activities, career opportunities, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, and food stability, all of which will be directly supported by TIF funds over the next several decades.


Additionally, state law mandates that District 65 and District 202 receive a percentage of TIF revenues for impacts resulting in net new students resulting from TIF investment. City consultants estimate a maximum of $16.5 million over the 23-year TIF lifespan.


The City of Evanston looks forward to continuing to work with District 65 and the entire Evanston community to meet our commitments now and in the future. With hard work and a commitment to trusting our respective expertise and experiences, we can maximize our collective impact and create the generational change that residents deserve.


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