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GUARDIANS OF THE PUBLIC TILL! 

You pay taxes because the government can make better decisions about what to do with your money. Instead of frivolously spending money based on your own whims and uninformed decisions, governmental bodies can gather together and carefully analyze how your earnings will result in the greatest good for the greatest number.

Of course, there are many forms of taxation -- federal income tax, state income tax, sales taxes, luxury taxes, real estate taxes, inheritance taxes -- you pay 'em, so you probably know 'em.

You may not be familiar with the rather esoteric taxes generated by "special redevelopment districts." Tax increment finance districts, known as TIFs, are exactions paid on new developments to finance things like public transportation and sidewalks in specific geographic areas. While TIFs are gaining in popularity all over America, they are especially popular in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley has implemented more than 30. In fact, although most Chicagoans probably don't know what a TIF is, they are responsible for over six percent of the city's huge tax revenues.

So what actually happens to all that money? Perhaps the case of Chicago is instructive. A special review board meets to analyze how the millions of dollars being generated by the TIFs is being spent. With all that money at stake, they're bound to be pretty vigilant. The review board must meet weekly? Perhaps once a month?

Or perhaps almost never. Since 1989, there have been 30 scheduled review board meetings. Yet only twice did these meetings actually take place -- on the other occasions not enough board members cared enough to even show up. And the last time these vigilant custodians of the public purse met was 1989 -- eight years ago.

So just where has all the money gone?

(Source: Chicago Tribune.)

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