Inserting taxpayers back into Rockford TIF approval process

To reiterate my previous post, unelected officials, who represent each affected taxing district on a Joint Review Board, during the initial phases of the Rockford Tax Increment Finance approval process, typically do not inform their district’s elected officials of the scheduled state mandated JRB meetings and then fail to attend the meetings themselves.

Taxpayers are thus provided little or no representation at the JRB meetings, despite the fact that TIF approval affects area property taxes for 23 years.

The tax revenue diverted from the taxing districts to Rockford’s TIF Fund is off budget to the affected district’s Finance Committees, because the taxes are removed prior to each district receiving their annual revenue!

The entire JRB process needs to be reformed to restore taxpayer representation to this portion of the TIF approval process; because the JRB meeting is the only time the affected taxing districts have consequential input into the process.

Issues other than TIF eligibility criteria need to be negotiated between the city and the affected taxing districts, because the JRB also approves the TIF plan and the board annually reviews TIF reports provided by the City of Rockford concerning TIFs performances.

Municipalities, such as Winnebago County with Chemtool and the Village of Rockton with the Beloit Corporation, have designed TIFs that provide some protection to the taxing districts through intergovernmental agreements by sharing the tax increment at given time intervals or with percentage reductions over the 23 years.

Has Rockford ever explored or proposed a TIF with such features or researched Enterprise Zones or loans that still support economic development without impacting the other taxing districts and their taxpayers? TIFs are not the only economic development tool available to Illinois municipalities.

In order for this collaboration to occur, the elected officials of all the affected taxing districts first need to be made aware of scheduled meetings of the TIF Joint Review Board to insure that a representative or an alternative member will attend that meeting and that the representatives be instructed to vote the elected board’s positions regarding relevant TIFs.

The attorney for the school district, which voted against the Auburn Street TIF in December, questioned the success and effectiveness of Rockford’s other TIFs. He was told that the Auburn Street TIF should stand on its own merits.

The attorney had a valid question because unsuccessful TIFs have been a financial drain on the city’s TIF fund and Rockford’s General Fund currently in the amount of $2M to $3M per year, which is paid by property taxes.

The school district correctly assumes that economic development should have a “concrete and measureable positive impact on the community tax base.”

Businesses contacted in the Auburn Street area had positive feedback for TIF approval and it was suggested at the JRB meeting that if the City of Rockford does not offer some type of support for the small businesses, they will not be able to maintain their businesses and tax levy.

Additional representatives attending the JRB meeting could have argued that the purpose of a TIF is not to maintain the status quo or to give businesses in the area financial support paid for by Rockford taxpayers.

The goal of TIFs is to increase the value of the property’s tax base within the area, so that higher tax revenue is generated for the future when and if the property returns to the tax rolls, thus lowering the taxes of the other property owners – our return on investment.

Issues discussed during negotiations in this phase of TIF approval would also give members of the city council additional information not previously garnered from the affected taxing districts prior to the city council’s final TIF approval.

The Board of Education has established a policy that explicitly lays out their TIF process and so should all the taxing districts affected by Rockford TIFs.

Taxpayers are funding these TIFs, in one way or another, with little return on their investment – the primary reason the taxpayer’s elected representatives should be an integral part of the TIF process.



  1. CarolF964

    Good column, Ted.


    What is the total amount of property taxes removed from the city budget due to the numerous TIF districts in Rockford?

    • Ted Biondo

      Richard, all the numbers are in an article I wrote December 2013 at the following link.


      The actual amount removed from the general fund budget for the four largest municipalities is, at a current tax rate of $6.6884*$30,809,162/100, RSD205 had $2,060,640 of their property taxes diverted to Rockford’s TIF districts in 2013. Similarly, the city paid $776,114, the county paid $290,314, and the Park District paid $292,687 to TIFs. The general fund of the city has to make up $2.75M out of it’s general fund annually to pay what the TIFs are losing from their tax increment.

      But read the post, it explains it a lot better.

  3. CarolF964

    And please remember, if the TIF’s a loser, it can be most likely at least 18 years of the General Fund picking up a bill for it. TIF’s run 23 years and are often only successful part of their life-span.
    Please comment, Ted, on the rules for what can be a “blighted” area. I think people would find that very interesting and shocking.

    • Ted Biondo

      My best reply to your question, Carol, is that the city made, what I call, Miracle Mile II, the area between Alpine and Mulford, North and South of East State, with all the shopping centers and over 75 thriving businesses – a few stagnant ones, too – a blighted area – then blight has a new meaning to me!

      Read my post – http://blogs.e-rockford.com/tedbiondo/2012/08/15/miracle-mile-ii-tif-and-effects-on-property-taxes-part-2/#axzz2tPlAlXJd



        How would I locate the various subsidies the City of Rockford is committed to? Such as the Metro Center, Ice Hogs, Magic Waters, and Discovery Center, etc.

        • Ted Biondo

          Richard, I think your best bet would be in the Rockford City Budget in the Redevelopment Fund as the following link discusses some of the projects and amounts that you have mentioned. Of course the link is for the city’s 2009 budget. In order to get the current budget you may have to fill out a Freedom of Information Act request and ask for this section, because the entire budget would be too expensive or go to city hall and look through the budget.

          As you will see in the link the city in 2009 paid almost $1,000,000 for the Metro Center and still pays hundreds of thousands on the Coronado debt. It’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes. And it is intentionally hard to obtain this information without a lot of work.


          Also remember these expenses are all not paid directly by property taxes. Some are state and Federal grants and that is our money too, but the city is always trying to get grants. I just wanted you to be aware of that.

        • Ted Biondo

          You could try searching for the Redevelopment Fund of the city’s budget such as the link I found for the 2009 budget online.

          Search for City of Rockford Illinois redevelopment Fund – there are a number of references one of which is:


        • Ted Biondo

          Richard, You would have to look at the City of Rockford’s City Budget in the Redevelopment Fund. Look it up online and download the file. Otherwise you would have to go to City Hall and look at the actual document on the CD pages. I can search on the network but it’s a .pdf file which I can’t seem to give you the link.

          BTW, the City in 2009 paid over $1,000,000 for the Metro Center with the County’s $460K for economic development. And remember the City borrowed $23M to buy the Ice Hog franchise. Or call your alderman and ask him to get the answers, My stuff, except TIFs Is over 4 years old. Sorry that’s the best I can do.


    what subsidies are awarded Magic Waters, Metro Center and the Ice Hogs from the City of Rockford annual budget?

    • Ted Biondo

      All I’m sure about, Richard, is that the now, BMO Center and the Ice Hogs get $460,000 from the county and $100 of thousands from the city. The city’s support has been reduced in the last few years, but the county’s support is there for almost another decade from the host fees with the Trash. Don’t know about Magic Waters.

  5. Carol, the following may help show how Illinois municipalities define “blight”. Or not.


    IMHO, this seems to show that “blighted” is whatever the municipality’s “experts” decide that it is. Even vacant land can be considered “blighted” by a municipality.

    Sadly, this type of decision-making seems to parallel the KELO decision, in that SCOTUS decided that a municipality can arbitrarily decide what is the “best use” of a property, no matter if such actions involuntarily removes a lawful owner from their property. The municipality seeks a greater tax return than the current usage allows, by forcibly acquiring (through eminent domain), and then re-selling the property to other private developers who “improve” the property, which increases the property’s taxable value.

    In both cases, the government’s desire for increased tax revenue outweigh those of the rightful property owner(s). The 5th Amendment allows the taking of property only for PUBLIC purposes. The KELO decision, and TIF districts, make increasing the tax base a “public purpose”.

  6. CarolF964

    Thanks, Ted, I feel people can easily see if they read your reference how “blighted” might not be what they think it is in the fantasy world of a TIF.

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