Evanston may have less money to fund new development projects and pay off debt on existing ones as a result of declining property values in its tax increment financing districts.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons delivered that sobering message to the Joint Review Board Thursday.

Lyons says that although they haven’t been audited yet, figures from the county clerk’s office show a decline averaging 13 percent in the value of properties in the city’s five remaining TIF districts.

The good news, such as it is, is that the Washington National TIF downtown, by far the biggest revenue generator, showed the smallest decline — just over 1 percent.

Revenue from that TIF is already committed to retire bonds issued to build the Sherman Plaza parking garage.

But other TIFs showed far sharper declines — topping out at just over 50 percent for the Howard Ridge TIF on Evanston’s south side.

Lyons said that although the city’s total assessed valuation increased slightly this year, TIF districts that have large single-use commercial properties showed sharp declines as property owners aggressively appealed their tax assessments.

He added that because of major delays in the appeals process, the city may see continued volatility in TIF tax revenue over the next few years.

“We may need to hold some money back that we might otherwise spend on development projects, to deal with possible ‘poison pills’ down the line, until this shakes out,” Lyons said.

He said the city staff is in the midst of preparing revised long term projections for its TIF districts as part of its capital improvement plan for 2011.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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