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City Council Passes Lightfoot's $94M Property Tax Hike

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the Chicago City Council.

It wasn’t one of the almost-unanimous votes frequently secured by her predecessors, but on Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot got a win when the Chicago City Council approved her $12.8B budget for 2021.

This year’s coronavirus pandemic had opened a gap between projected revenues and expenses, which Lightfoot’s plan closes with a $94M property tax hike, a massive debt restructuring, higher fines for speeding and other cost-cutting measures.

Aldermen approved the final budget by a 29-21 vote. The opponents came from a wide variety of wards, but the tax hike was the common point of contention. Alderman Brian Hopkins’ 2nd Ward includes the affluent Gold Coast, and he told the council his residents resolutely opposed a property tax increase during a pandemic, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“They want to know that if we’re going to ask them to pay more every year that we’ve exhausted all other possible options, and ladies and gentlemen, we have not done that.”

26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado also opposed the mayor’s plan. He said the property tax boost would hurt the many working-class families trying to hold onto their homes in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods around Humboldt Park.

Lightfoot has called the property tax hike modest and argued it is necessary to balance the budget. She estimated a home worth $250K will only see a $56 bump, according to the Tribune, and found support from council members like 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr.

“At the end of the day, we have to have a balanced budget,” he told the council. “It’s ironic that folks ask for so many things but don’t want to vote on the things that will help bring the money.”

The council’s Progressive Caucus was split, but some in the group said they decided to support the mayor after she met a few of their demands. Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza, who represents the 10th Ward, said she came on board after Lightfoot reached a deal with the Chicago Federation of Labor to avoid hundreds of layoffs by borrowing $15M against future tax revenues brought in by the sale of cannabis, the Tribune reported.  

This wasn't the largest recent tax increase passed by city council. In 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel secured approval for a $755M revenue boost, including a record-breaking $543M property tax hike.