Attending Monday’s meeting of City Council’s finance committee felt a bit like listening to chairman Ald. Ed Burke (14th) read the phone book while watching paint dry. But we perked up at the mention of $2 million in TIF dollars earmarked for Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave. The ordinance not only passed committee but received full council approval on Wednesday.
A copy of the legislation reveals the shell game required to provide TIF funds to Lake View, given that the school isn’t situated in a TIF district. Technically the money is going to Lane Tech, part of the Western Avenue South TIF, and then handed off to Lake View. Kind of like a stem-cell transplant, or STEM as the case may be.
“Lane’s gotten a lot of capital dollars over the years,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who helped broker the deal. “This isn’t diverting any money away from Lane.”
The arrangement will allow Lake View to spring for necessary capital improvements and infrastructure upgrades related to implementing its new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum in the 2012-13 school year, including science, technology and computer labs. “Clearly the Lake View STEM is a priority,” said Pawar.
With CPS slashing its capital budget – down from $660 million this fiscal year to $110 million in the next – TIF dollars are one way for schools to fund big-ticket items, like the millions in TIF money allocated for Coonley Elementary’s annex. “We need to use TIF strategically to augment CPS capital,” Pawar said. “We’ve certainly made that a priority in our ward.”