Last Week Before School

Last Week Before School
Editorial: Ring the bell at CPS Tribune:  week from Monday, 403,000 Chicago Public Schools students — every last one of them, we hope — will fill classrooms across the city. Unlike past years, all students will start on the same day. They'll benefit from a longer school day and...
Whittier fieldhouse razed, protesters arrested Sun Times: Police arrested a dozen protesters who unsuccessfully tried to stop a demolition crew from razing a fieldhouse at Whittier Elementary School early Saturday morning, fellow protesters claim.
Parent group decries demolition of Whittier field house Catalyst: CPS officials say the building’s structure was unsafe and that the community will be better off with the park planned to replace La Casita in the the courtyard outside of Whittier. A folk dance class was taking place at the center Friday night when crews kicked them out and cordoned off the building.
Chicago Public Schools demolishes ramshackle, but symbolic, field house WBEZ: The dilapidated field house was the scene of a 43-day sit-in in 2010. Parents and activistis said at the time that they wanted to save the structure so it could be turned into a library for the school, which didn’t have one.
Activists taken by surprise at demolition of Whittier field house Tribune: Chicago Public Schools sidestepped a long-standing disagreement with activists over proposed renovations to a field house at Whittier Elementary School by tearing down the building early Saturday. The move angered activists, who three years ago staged...
Crowd protests CPS cuts in Logan Square CLTV: In Logan Square today, budget cuts to Chicago Public Schools sparked calls for Mayor Emanuel to change his priorities when it comes to funding.
Advocates Push for TIFs to Be Divereted to Schools DNAI: Organizers are calling for a TIF redistribution, but a Logan Sqaure alderman says refund isn't likely.


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  • School uniform trend that Chicago helped start in the 1990s continues nationwide says USA Today

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  • On the TIF issue. The City of Chicago has as of August 12 declared its TIF surplus for 2013. This can be found in City of Chicago (2013, July 30) "Annual Financial Analysis 2013" revised on August 12, 2013.The CPS part of this surplus would be about $23.3 million for 2013, but the City is not clear when this would be released.

    In the discussion by the City it states that: "TIFs had an aggregate balance of $1.71 billion at the close of 2012. However, $1.53 billion of this balance is reserved for payments due in connection with current or planned projects." The City also argues because of the City's major decline in property values that "in the past year alone, the EAV (Equalized Assessed Value) in TIF districts dropped by $1 billion.." The City predicts this trend to continue and therefore "the City is holding back current revenues in certain TIF districts to be utilized to meet future obligations in the affected TIF districts."

    Several things are unclear from the discussion in the TIF analysis provided by the City. 1. Of the $1.53 billion in TIF dollars what percentage is legally required to be escrowed for what is called sinking fund provisions of TIF bonds that have been issued and what percentage is being held to meet future obligations in the affected TIF districts?

    I am totally unclear where Cassie Creswell who is quoted in the DNAinfo article got her $100 million figure for unobligated TIF dollars. I have also seen Mr. Ben Joravsky in the Reader put out different and confusing data on TIF surpluses. On July 23, 2013 in an article he stated this "There's so much money flowing into the TIF accounts—$457 million this year alone—that even two all-powerful mayors couldn't spend it all. And so the surplus sits in bank accounts. I can't say for certain exactly how much is in those accounts because the city's information on the subject is either incomplete, impossible to decipher, or contradictory."

    Then on August 8, 2013 Mr. Joravsky states: "Well, the good news is that so many people are starting to complain about all these boondoggles that the mayor's decided he might have to dip into the TIF surplus and throw a few scraps back to the schools—if only to shut everybody up. But first he (Mayor Emanuel) needs to make everyone grovel just a bit. Hence, he's asking Chicagoans to participate in a mayoral poll in which you call 312-744-3300 and tell the person who answers whether you think the mayor should give some of the $1.71 billion TIF surplus back to the schools."

    On August 5, 2013 Mr. Joravsky reveals his confusion on this issue writing: "On page 77 (Annual Financial Analysis 2013), you can find a reference to the tax increment financing program's surplus, or, as the analysis calls it, the aggregate balance." No - an aggregate balance actually includes what are called sinking funds on top of money that the Mayor is holding back. Its simply and totally incorrect to refer to all existing TIF fund balances as being "surplus" as Mr. Joravsky did. That is how Mr. Joravsky came up with the figure of a $1.71 billion TIF surplus.

    Now we have a specific statement by the City on the TIF surplus of $43.5 million of which CPS would get about $23.3 million made on August 12. Interestingly when one goes to one this morning can no longer pull up the 2013 budget document listing the TIF surplus. Maybe its being revised yet again.

    At any rate community activists, journalists, and progressive Democrat politicians need to get their act together on this TIF surplus issue, all kinds of numbers are being thrown around. TIFs are a magic solution to some extent because they avoid a significant property tax increase going well beyond the of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL).

    Everyone likes painless solutions and no one wants to pay up. There is likely no way out of CPS fiscal problems over the long run that will not either involve tax increases, cuts to either benefits of employees retirees, or additional cuts to students.

    The money being diverted to charter schools now has dramatically increased, but none the less these schools like them or not are going to be educating about 51,000 students in FY 14 (see pages 80-81 of CPS FY 14 budget). Simply closing charters down also does not fix the budget because these students would then have to be educated in traditional CPS schools. It is my opinion that the CPS FY 14 budget bails out the charter schools with a serious infusion of money, without that infusion some charter school networks would have began to fiscally collapse and close.

    The CTU has proposed additional revenues for CPS based on closing corporate loopholes, engaging the banks about toxic swaps, and supporting a financial transaction tax. I doubt the banks even under pressure are likely to take haircuts on swap deals they cut years ago with CPS, a financial transaction tax is possible only if it were implemented statewide so as to avoid capital flight out of Chicago. Closing corporate loopholes is always a nice idea, but new ones are created to replace ones that are closed pretty rapidly so it turns out to be a zero sum game.

    There is no way to avoid a property tax increase in Chicago that would move the city close to the average rate for suburban school districts. A radical change in the structure of the state income tax will require a constitutional amendment, while there is support for this including from myself, it won't happen anytime too soon I suspect.

    Rod Estvan

  • Documentary will follow teachers, staff, kids to new (receiving) schools, says Chicagoist

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