Chicagoans Avoid Major Property Tax Increase as Lightfoot’s 1st Budget Passes

Taking an Uber or a Lyft, dining out, and parking at a metered spot will cost Chicagoans more come January, on account of the new city budget approved on a 39-11 vote Tuesday by the City Council, following a nearly two-hour debate.

“The 2020 budget we just passed is a progressive blueprint for the future,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said to applause after its passage.

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Even as a first-time candidate trying to appeal to voters, Lightfoot had said Chicago’s fiscal situation was such that a major property tax increase might be inescapable.

Instead, the budget largely avoids a hefty property tax increase, instead relying on savings through refinanced bonds, “efficiencies” and restructuring city departments; revenue in the form of a congestion tax, increased restaurant tax and federal reimbursement for ambulance rides; and fiscal maneuvering like using surplus money from the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund and shifting from the city to Chicago Public Schools $93 million in pension costs.

“This budget will close an $838 million gap. To accomplish that we first looked inwards and not to the taxpayers,” Lightfoot said.

There is a property tax increase, albeit a relatively small one of $65 million, $18 million of which will pay for Chicago Public Library branches to be open on Sundays. Lightfoot says her administration estimates that will increase an “average” homeowners’ annual tax bill by $46.

There are also spending bumps for police, mental health and homelessness efforts, and a ramp up to a $15 minimum wage by 2021.

That’s not enough, though, for critics such as the council’s six avowed socialists, who said they’re disappointed Chicago is once again relying on “regressive” tax structures, rather than asking wealthy residents and corporations to pay more.

Other alderman voted no for opposite reasons.

“It’s completely unbalanced,” 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez said, as he warned that if the mayor’s “rosy” projections don’t come to fruition, a major property tax hike will be on the way before fiscal year’s end.

Lightfoot brushed aside the suggestion the 11 no votes portend anything negative for the city, or her future as its leader.

There’s “always going to be critics” she said. “We needed 26 votes. And got 39. By my estimation – and my math is not the greatest – we got a supermajority of the City Council.”

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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Lightfoot: No Property Tax Hike If Springfield Chips In

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