Tax increment financing, or TIF, districts in Cook County generated a record $1 billion in 2017, up nearly 18 percent from 2016, according to the Cook County clerk. Chicago accounted for most of these gains by generating $660 million, an 18 percent increase from 2016. As long as these TIF districts exist, however, struggling school districts in those districts won't see a dime of this revenue. This comes at a time when Cook County and Chicago face budget shortfalls up to $95 million and $812 million, respectively, by 2020.
In theory, TIFs are a mechanism used to revitalize "blighted" neighborhoods by providing economic incentives for developers to invest in the area. TIFs freeze the Equalized Assessment Value, or EAV, of all properties in a designated TIF district and divert all property tax revenue above that EAV into a private TIF fund. The amount of property tax revenue collected by individual taxing bodies within a TIF district – school districts, libraries, et cetera – is effectively capped at the frozen EAV.