Property tax increase, gas tax, layoffs likely part of mayor’s plan for Chicago budget

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CHICAGO — Even with budget prep in the final stages, at City Hall on Tuesday, the mayor’s budget team continued briefing aldermen about the path forward while activists cringe. 

For Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council, it’s gut-check time. Facing a $1.2 billion projected deficit, city leaders must now decide how to proceed.

On Wednesday, the mayor is set to unveil her budget, which will include a mix of cuts, revenue and efficiencies.

“I think no one is going to like this budget,” Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, said.

Sources say Lightfoot is considering a $94 million property tax hike. For a home valued at $250,000 that comes out to $56 more per year.

She’s also looking to raise Chicago’s gas tax from 5 cents a gallon to 8 cents.

Plus she is also looking at eliminating 1,000 vacant jobs and layoff hundreds of workers. Under the austerity, vacant police positions won’t be filled.

The mayor is also considering refinancing $500 million in debt and tapping into city reserves.

“We are looking at a range of different tools because of the enormity of this budget gap requires us to look at a number of different options,” the mayor said.

Chicago activists are already concerned about the budget details.

“If we’re in a crisis right now and you’re talking about cutting jobs and increasing revenue and property taxes, that’s something we need to talk about,” Kimberly Smith said.

“If her proposal tomorrow values and centers the people of Chicago it will defund the police,” Theresa Yoon, Grassroots Collaborative, said.

To pass the budget, 26 of Chicago’s 50 aldermen will need to sign off on the final plan. As Lightfoot’s floor leader, Villegas is tracking support.

“There’s only so many levers that we can pull as members of City Council and so this is a go-long Chicago budget that doesn’t rely on any assistance from Springfield or Washington D.C.,” he said.

Last year, Lightfoot won approval for a budget that did not include a major property tax hike. Instead, she raised fees on ride shares and parking meters. But this year with the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the economy, painful choices are on the table.

The plan is to hold hearing over the next few weeks and get a final budget approved by the middle of November.

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