Yesterday the City Council approved a $7.8 billion budget for 2016 that includes a $543 million property tax increase to shore up Chicago’s police and fire pension funds. After going through a long budget process and listening to many residents in our community, I voted against the budget and property tax hike.
This was a difficult decision, but I am very concerned about the impact the property tax increase will have on the people of our ward—whether longtime homeowners who have helped make the community what it is today, renters who value the diversity and quality of life here, or small-business owners who play such a vital role in our day-to-day lives. Everyone will be affected, and I realize that as the cost of living continues to climb, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for some people to stay in our great neighborhood.
The budget begins to address our long-term pension obligations, but I believe we should have looked for more cuts and efficiencies in city government before we asked residents and business owners to dig deeper into their pockets. This year the city returned $113 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District surplus funds to various government taxing bodies, including $22 million to the city and $45 million to the Chicago Public Schools. Given that hundreds of millions of dollars will remain in TIFs at the end of the year, I feel we should have returned more. This is an issue I will continue to pursue, as I am still very concerned about the financial condition of both the city and CPS.
Finding more efficiencies in city government would not have eliminated the property tax increase, but it would have lessened the burden on residents and business owners. Moving forward, there will be a number of proposals for property tax rebates that I will review and share with you. I also will continue to look for ways to have a city government that we can afford.
Throughout this budget process, many of you have reached out through emails and Town Hall meetings to share your ideas and concerns. As I cast this difficult vote, please know that I did it with the people of our community in mind.
You may continue to contact me at 773-784-5277 or Harry@48thward.org with questions or concerns. I value your input.
For more insight into the budget process and the City Council vote, here is a link to last night’s Chicago Tonight program on WTTW-Channel 11, where I appeared along with three of my fellow aldermen.
Alderman, 48th Ward