Reprinted below is a letter from the District 65 School Board to the District 65 community published on the District’s website. The RoundTable has asked Mayor Daniel Biss for a response, and the RoundTable will publish the city’s response when we receive it.
It should be noted that the resolution adopted by City Council as part of the TIF package, to which the School Board’s letter refers, contains provisions that the city will spend TIF funds to provide affordable housing, promote workforce development, encourage home ownership retention, improve and maintain existing rental housing to allow aging in place, and support businesses in the TIF District.
The Joint Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that City Council did not approve would have required School District 65 to “make good faith efforts to pursue the establishment of a school within the TIF District or the Fifth Ward without a referendum to the extent permitted by law.”
The Joint IGA rejected by City Council Oct. 25 did not require that the building at 1815 Ridge Avenue be taken out of the TIF District.
The School Board’s letter follows:
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,
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.
Anya Tanyavutti, President
Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, Vice President
Soo La Kim
Donna Wang Su