by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.7 billion budget plan for 2022 cleared its first hurdle on Thursday, as the City Council Finance Committee signed off on a $76.5 million property tax hike, and the rest of her package of taxes, fees, and borrowing to fund the spending plan.READ MORE: COVID Test Confusion After Suburban Family Believes They Got False Result from University Of Illinois SHIELD Program
The Finance Committee voted 19-12 to approve the property tax increase, which includes a $22.9 million automatic tax hike tied to the consumer price index, which aldermen authorized last year as part of the 2021 budget plan; another $25 million to help fund the mayor’s $3.7 billion capital infrastructure plan; and $28.6 billion in tax revenue that will be collected from new property.
The mayor’s budget team told aldermen the property tax hike will cost the average owner of a $250,000 home an additional $37 on their annual property tax bill.
The aldermen who voted against the tax hike included: Brian Hopkins (2nd), Anthony Beale (9th), Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Marty Quinn (13th), Edward Burke (14th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Gilbert Villegas (36th), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), and Debra Silverstein (50th).
In addition to the property tax hike, aldermen also approved the mayor’s revenue ordinance, which includes a laundry list fees the city charges for various licenses and permits; as well as fines imposed for various parking, traffic, and other code violations.
The revenue ordinance includes increased fees for environmental pollution violations, higher fees for building permits, and lower fees to register vacant buildings with the city.
The mayor’s plan also includes two pilot programs to help ease the burden of traffic and parking tickets on low-income drivers.
Under the mayor’s plan, people who can show they can’t afford to pay off a mound of ticket debt will have the opportunity to pay off their most recent tickets, and have the rest of their debt forgiven. They also will be able to qualify for a program to have the cost of their tickets cut in half.
In addition, anyone in Chicago will be able to qualify for a “fix-it ticket” program for simple compliance violations like missing city vehicle stickers, giving them one last chance to buy the sticker they need and having their ticket forgiven if they buy the sticker within 30 days of getting a ticket.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Defense Attorney Calls For Mistrial And Accuses Judge Of Lunging At Her; Judge Denies Claims And Motion
The Finance Committee also signed off on the mayor’s plan to borrow $660 million to fund her plan for recovering from the pandemic, which will also use a portion of the $1.9 billion in federal relief funds headed to Chicago to pay for affordable housing, mental health, violence prevention, youth jobs, arts & culture, environmental, homelessness assistance, and other programs.
Some aldermen initially pushed back on the mayor’s borrowing plan, saying they hadn’t been given enough information on specific projects that would be funded.
“I think what we have here is an issue of trust, to be perfectly honest with you; trust that most of us don’t have in this administration to do right by our neighborhoods or the people that we represent. We can look at lists until we’re blue in the face, but right now being asked to … take out a $660 million loan to give you all of that back as a blank check, without knowing exactly how that’s going to benefit us, or if we’re going to be included in how that gets spent or prioritized is not something I think most of my colleagues, and especially not something I’m comfortable dealing with,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), one of the mayor’s most vocal critics.
But Budget Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) told aldermen that they already had been provided details on the mayor’s plan last month.
And Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said Dowell did a “phenomenal job” of providing that information to her colleagues.
“The list has been out there. I have it in front of me. Let’s not politicize this process, right? Everything else in Chicago now is being politicized. We know where the money’s going to go,” he said. “It’s sad that some of our colleagues are joining in to politicize everything that we do, and I think it’s sad.”
Ultimately, the Finance Committee voted 27-3 in favor of the borrowing plan, with only Beale, Burke, and Lopez opposed.
The next step in the annual budget process is for the Budget Committee to vote on the spending side of the mayor’s budget plan on Friday afternoon. If approved, a final City Council vote could come next week.MORE NEWS: CTA Red, Orange, Green Line Trains Left Standing At Roosevelt During Afternoon Rush Due To Police Activity