CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday laid out her $16.7 billion budget proposal in front of the City Council.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, some are calling the mayor’s proposal a good-news budget despite a massive shortfall of $733 million. And the mayor’s goals are lofty when it comes to the hundreds of millions of dollars she wants to invest in new programs, courtesy of the federal government.READ MORE: City Hall, Chicago FOP File Dueling Lawsuits In Heated Standoff Over Vaccine Mandate
Priority number one continues to be closing that budget gap.
“And we propose to do this without any new taxes, no reduction in city services, and no layoffs,” Mayor Lightfoot said in her budget announcement.
The second priority is investing in more than half a dozen new programs to help combat violence and enhance mental health services, affordable housing, and job creation.
“There’s good news,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation. “The mayor is delivering good news today.”
Chicago is getting $1.9 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funding to help the city recover from the coronavirus pandemic’s hard fiscal hit. It is providing the fiscal cushion for many of Mayor Lightfoot’s proposals, which include spending $400 million on community safety programs – including a $10 million victim support initiative and funneling more money to the police officer wellness program.
That program is especially important to Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th).
“I think the devil’s in the details,” Villegas said.
And those details are yet to come.
The mayor also wants to spend $240 million, in part, to create 4,000 affordable housing units, as well as $52 million on mental health initiatives.
North Side Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who was just attacked this weekend by a man he says has a long history of arrests and mental illness issues, is not yet sold.
“I want to make sure whatever we approve is going to produce results,” Cappleman said.READ MORE: Shots Fired At Police During Foot Chase In West Garfield Park
But shrouded in the budget is an automatic property tax hike – passed last year and tied to inflation – which some aldermen are grumbling about repealing. Budget Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), said without that hike, “It means we have to find $20 (million) to $22 million to replace that lost revenue.”
The mayor is also proposing a basic income assistance program, which would give $500 a month to low-income families.
Meanwhile, there are other concerns – including what happens when that federal money disappears.
The federal funding is a one-time boost, and some aldermen are worried that given the enormous budget gap, pitching so many new programs could be a problem down the line because of that.
“So how are we going to go forward after the federal relief money is a question that many people will look at the budget will have,” Msall said.
That will be the task of the city’s 50 aldermen – to comb through the 600-page budget proposal and figure out what makes fiscal sense and what does not, what they like and what they don’t, and if any of the new programs are sustainable once those federal dollars disappear.
When Kozlov noted the concern that the loss of the federal dollars might amount to kicking the can down the road for the budget shortfall, Dowell said, “Well, you know, I think you heard the mayor talk about making sure that we make the structural changes in our budget that we need to make to be balanced in 2023, and this money helps us to be able to do that,” Dowell said.
As to the property tax hike, it was built into last year’ budget and is triggered by inflation.
“That will not be much of an impact on Chicago residents,” Msall said.
But Chicago residents can expect the budget won’t pass without some aldermanic pushback.
“When you introduce something, it’s the mayor’s and her teams idea on what she envisions as well as spending, but you have 50 different ideas,” Villegas said.MORE NEWS: Illinois Democrats Look To Increase Edge With New Congressional Maps
City Council Budget Committee hearings begin Friday.