On Wed., July 1, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered to increase the city’s property taxes by what the Chicago Sun-Times reported could be “as much as $225 million” and what the Chicago Tribune reported could be $175 million, in order to fund a $634 million mandatory payment into the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher pension system.
In a May interview, West Side Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said he wasn’t in favor of raising property taxes.
“I won’t vote for a property tax hike,” he said. “I don’t believe we should place this burden on the backs of our taxpayers and on the backs of our homeowners. So I’m not going to be supportive of a property tax hike. I know we need to look at measures that will help shore up our pensions, but we should look at every measure first before we conclude that we’re going to raise property taxes.”
The mayor also proposed $200 million in budget cuts to help fund the obligatory payment — a move that could lead to the elimination of at least 1,050 jobs, 350 vacant positions and a host of educational programming, the Tribune noted.
Emanuel called his proposal a ‘grand bargain,’ because he’d implement it only if teachers “absorb their entire, 9 percent pension payment contribution and the state reimburses the Chicago Public Schools for ‘normal’ pension costs,” according to the Sun-Times.
According to interim schools CEO Jesse Ruiz, the layoffs would mostly be limited to positions in the district’s central offices, adding that “very few” teachers will be let go.
It’s not clear whether, or how many, West Side schools will be affected by these cuts. Although Mayor Emanuel said schools will open on time in the fall, the “high school day will begin and end 45 minutes later to save $9.2 The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) pushed back against the measures proposed by the mayor and Ruiz.
“The mayor claimed that CPS has made hundreds of millions in central office cuts that have spared the classroom, and decried the state for holding CPS hostage to the state-level fiscal impasse,” a CTU budget briefing reads.
“Both narratives are false. The mayor and his hand-picked unelected school board are in large part to blame for passing gimmick budgets and failing to pursue sound progressive revenue optiosn for four years, and instead prioritizing their privatization and corporate reform agenda. Furthermore, the claim that CPS has kept cuts away from the classrooms in untrue.”
The CTU claims that CPS has increased spending on administrative salaries by $22 million since 2011, while underfunding critical student services positions such as school nurse, certified librarian and social worker.