On Nov. 24, The Chicago City Council passed the city's 2021 pandemic budget.
According to a media release, "The $12.8 billion budget was built in close collaboration with City Council members, labor partners and other key stakeholders and avoids hundreds of layoffs despite an historic $1.2 billion deficit. Importantly, this budget includes structural reforms that strengthen the City's long-term financial sustainability while also holding firm to the City's shared values of equity, inclusion and transparency."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, "Rather than abandon our values, we chose to lean into them even more to meet this historic moment and seize our once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our city forward. As we look ahead to the new year, our success will continue to be rooted in those same values that have guided us throughout our incredible journey to transform our city and will continue to light our way in the months and years ahead."
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget includes more than $500 million in structural solutions, which represents more than $250 million in both personnel and non-personnel savings and efficiencies and an additional $262 million in improved financial management.
This budget also incorporates a variety of revenues that do not overly burden any single business sector or resident, including a one-time draw from the Rainy Day Fund, $76 million in TIF surplus funding, an adjustment to the Vehicle Fuel and Personal Property Lease Tax, and a $93.9 million property-tax levy that represents an estimated impact of approximately $56 annually on a median home valued at $250,000.
In a rare move, Lightfoot's office also issued a release composed of quotes praising the budget. For instance, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack said, "I applaud this administration for its open, transparent, and inclusive budget-making process over the last several weeks. As a result of this once-in-a-century global pandemic that continues to plague the public health and financial security of our communities, this year's budget does not shy away from the hard, difficult choices that are necessary for our longer-term recovery. Nonetheless, it's the vote we made today that will help us face the challenges of tomorrow."
James Cappleman, alderman of the city's 46th Ward, added, "This budget represents hundreds of hours of collaboration with aldermen and community leaders from across Chicago to ensure we could not only avoid hundreds of layoffs but also make the necessary investments in community-based violence prevention and mental health that will make our city safer for all residents."
And Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center, stated, "We thank Mayor Lightfoot and all aldermen who voted to continue the City's support for the Legal Protection Fund, which will ensure immigrant Chicagoans continue to have access to immigration legal services that are critical to upholding their rights."
However, not everyone is behind the budget. In a statement, United Working Families said, "These are times that call for courage, vision, and justice. But instead of care and healing, we will spend millions on vacant positions in the Chicago Police Department. Instead of rent and mortgage relief, we got a property tax increase. And instead of a moral budget, we got a budget that again prioritizes police and profits over people.
"Our hearts are hurting with and for the people of Chicago, particularly the working-class Black and immigrant communities, who once again got the short end of the stick from City Hall. We thank Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward), Jeanette B. Taylor (20th), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Matt Martin (47th), who held the line in demanding more from this city."
In addition, a group called the Chicago City Council Democratic Socialistscomposed of La Spata, Taylor, Sigcho-Lopez, Rodriguez Sanchez and Ramirez-Sosaissued its own statement, saying, "Chicago is unmistakably in a crisis, a crisis that necessitates a budget that protects working families, both in the investments that it makes and the revenues upon which it is balanced. Sadly, despite the voices of tens of thousands of Chicagoans and our own best efforts, Mayor Lightfoot's 2021 budget proposal does not protect working families. In the short and long [terms], this budget places Chicago on a socially, fiscally and environmentally unsustainable path.
"We proposed real progressive budget alternatives that were sent to the Rules Committee or ignored by this administration. Rather than taxing the rich, this budget asks already struggling Chicagoans to pay even more in regressive taxes and fines. While we voted no today, we commit to continue working with grassroots organizations over the next 12 months to win a 2022 budget that advances economic and racial justicea budget that our communities and ourselves can wholeheartedly support."