CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her plan for Chicago’s 2023 budget Wednesday and the expected deficit is smallest since she took office.
If approved, the gap could be closed in part with a small property tax increase.
Coming out of the pandemic, the mayor called last year’s budget the “recovery budget.” This year she said the spending plan amounts to a “stability budget” – one that pays the city’s debts, contributes to the pension obligations, provides essential services, and doesn’t waste taxpayer money.
Lightfoot detailed her proposed budget during a speech at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown.
“Budgets are not just math problems, they are truly value statements,” Lightfoot said. “And our statements have been bold, definitive and transformative. … Through the $1.1 billion the city received from the Federal Cares Act, we were not only able to mitigate the direct impact of Covid-19, but to also strengthen our communities.”)
The 553-page plan accounts for $16.7 billion dollars in spending for the 2023 fiscal year.
“As a result of our hard work over the past three-and-a-half years and despite a global pandemic, the resulting economic meltdown, and related loss of revenue, we persevered, stayed true to our values, and have cleared the city’s budget of decades of deferred liabilities,” Lightfoot said. “In other words, we are now living within our means and have started on the true road to financial stability and recovery.”
The new Bally’s Casino gave the city an immediate $40 million cash infusion and the mayor’s office said all of that will go to the annual required pension contribution.
There is a gap between spending and revenue. According to the mayor, city government faces a shortfall of $127.9 million.
“Our anticipated 2023 budget gap is the lowest in recent memory,” she said.
To close the gap, the mayor said she would look for cost cuts in city departments but said the city must increase property taxes overall by $42.7 million dollars, an increase that she says will be a modest per household.
“When all is said and done, a homeowner with a $250,000 home will pay an additional $34 in one year,” Lightfoot said. “To put that in terms I can understand, that’s about the price of Al’s Italian Beef— hot, dipped and with extra cheese — for a family of four.”
Chicago’s mayoral election is seven months away, but Lightfoot said she’s confident voters will see her as a good steward of the city’s finances.
“I’m mindful of the fact that nobody wants to pay taxes, but the choices is non delivery of city resources, layoffs of city workers, or a modest tax increase. Most people would say, ‘Ok, I get that. I may not like it, but I get that,’” she said.
The plan will now be negotiated with the city council, which will ultimately vote on it. The police budget could once again be a sticking point, as progressive aldermen want more social investments and less police spending.