* Last week…
At a hastily arranged news conference at City Hall on Thursday, Emanuel was asked by a reporter if Chicago taxpayers, after seeing record property tax increases in the past couple of years, should prepare for more. “Yes,” the mayor said.
Afterward, mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath sought to clarify the mayor’s statement, saying that the “yes” response was an acknowledgment of the increased property tax burden already faced by city residents, not that they would face more.
“We are not announcing a tax increase today,” McGrath said. “He was not responding to that question.”
So, maybe Emanuel was actually responding to a different question and maybe he didn’t want to announce a tax hike that day, but a potential property tax hike was in the bill.
The compromise school funding bill the Illinois House approved Monday contains a provision to let the Chicago Board of Education raise property taxes by what Democrats estimated was an additional $120 million.
Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office, however, put that figure at closer to $163 million.
Among many other things, the 550-page bill would allow Chicago’s Board of Education to increase its maximum property tax rate for the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund by about 45 percent. That levy, first approved in late 2016, increased taxes by about $272 million this year.
Orr’s office said CPS could have raised property taxes for pensions even higher but did not do so. If the district went for the maximum amount allowed under the state legislation that’s expected to pass, CPS could collect $162.7 million in additional taxes in 2018, Orr’s office concluded. That would bring the total CPS tax levy for pension contributions to $434.5 million — and even that figure that could go higher if assessed property values go up.
Chicago Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) said the City Council would enact a tax hike only as a last resort, as city homeowners and businesses are “pretty much at critical mass” after being hit with $838 million in property-tax increases to cover city-related pension costs. “Good business would require you to look at all other options before you go further into debt. It’s a last-case scenario,” O’Connor said.
*** UPDATE *** Tribune…
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday defended the idea of another big boost in Chicago Public Schools property taxes that’s part of the compromise agreement on state school funding.
Under legislation that’s cleared the General Assembly, the Chicago Board of Education would be given the authority to increase its property tax levy by at least $120 million — and perhaps tens of millions of dollars more — to help cover growing contributions to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.
“I’ve never, ever said that we were not going to also come up with the resources to make sure our schools were well funded and we were investing in them. teachers,” Emanuel said of the tax increase provision he hinted at last week. “And we never wanted to be in a situation where it was a choice between continuing to invest in our children’s future or paying our teachers’ pensions. So we’ll be able to do our pensions and . . . continue to invest in our children.”