Lightfoot unveils budget plan as Chicago faces $1.2B deficit in 2021

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her new budget plan Wednesday to a mostly empty City Council Chamber as Aldermen and city residents watched remotely.

The city is facing a $1.2 billion projected deficit next year, the largest in Chicago’s history.

Among the options to increase funds, a $94 million property tax hike, along with a hike in Chicago’s gas tax. Lightfoot is also considering laying off hundreds of workers and eliminating 1,000 positions to save money.

The property tax hike would, by the city’s estimate, mean that the owner of a median home valued at $250,000 would see a $56 annual increase in their property tax bill.

For one Edison Park homeowner and medical salesman, the Mayor’s plan is much scarier than the Halloween decorations throughout his neighborhood.

“Much scarier than Halloween is property taxes going up,” Patrick Creevy said.

The plan says the city would accumulate $114 million in savings through 350 layoffs, as well as requiring non-union employees to take five furlough days.

The city’s plan also estimates savings of $106 million in eliminating open positions, including 614 police vacancies. The city also hopes to re-finance debt and take advantage of lower interest rates, hoping for savings of more than $500 million.

The plan also includes refinancing, designed to save the city $500 million on its debt.

“In 2020, we have taken some punches. Some very hard body blows,” Lightfoot said.

For nurse Sharon Aguirre, the potential tax increase is putting the bill on workers who already are struggling making ends meet.

“Everyone’s at a deficit. I don’t see how putting the squeeze on us at this time is going to solve it,” Aguirre said.

Lightfoot also said the city will dip into the ‘rainy day’ fund to assist with expenses as well.

“Our recovery is in reach. Working together we can get there, and come out of this crisis, better and stronger than ever,” Lightfoot said.

The budget has drawn criticism from the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, who believes the budget can be balanced without the layoffs and cuts proposed. The union represents approximately 15,000 city workers.

“City workers have been out there during this pandemic, delivering the city services that the residents depend on,” Bob Reiter said.

Activists and community groups advocating for the defunding of police protested at City Hall both Tuesday and Wednesday, demanding more funding for social services.

Lightfoot reiterated her opposition to the activists’ calls.

“I have been equally clear that I do not support defunding the police. And while this term means different things to different people, in this moment, in Chicago, we cannot responsibly enact any policies that make communities less safe,” Lightfoot said.

Five aldermen signed a letter asking Lightfoot to earmark $50 million to crime reduction in their wards.

The goal is to get a final budget approved by the middle of November.

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