Closing Statement on 2021 City of Chicago Budget Process
Alderman Waguespack closing comments on Chicago 2021 Budget
The 2021 City of Chicago budget is a tough one to pass in this virus pandemic but it is the one that is best for our City’s recovery. This is a once-in-a-lifetime crisis like COVID has created an unprecedented budget challenge, knocking out over 60% of our budget revenue expectations. It has been a difficult budget process, but I want to thank my colleagues and the administration and the staff for their all around efforts, transparency and compromise. I too, have felt the angst and anxieties of working almost entirely online, via a portal that sometimes doesn’t correctly convey our feelings or efforts. I hope next year is different.
I especially want to thank Budget Committee Chairwoman Dowell and her staff, as well as our staff in the Finance Committee for their efforts on transparency, researching, gathering and sharing information with dozens of aldermanic and executive departments. The scale of this economic collapse exceeds that of the housing crash in 2008 with budgets that all cities, are suffering through together. Our options are extremely limited. We have not been able to rely on much assistance from the feds. And Since The progressive graduated income tax we have been fighting for for years has failed we lost another opportunity for fair revenue. However, the Mayor has committed to other progressive revenue options we have been working on for years, like PILOTS or like Sales Tax Modernization that must happen in Springfield. We also see an effort to reform TIFS, and will see a challenge the property tax appeals system that has been gamed for years, to the detriment of Chicago. And like all Illinois municipalities, we are not seeing the benefits of an increase in the LGDF fund that would help alleviate some of the fiscal pain for our working families. It is time to put the LGDF refund to Illinois municipalities back to 10%. If and when more state or federal funding comes through our advocacy, we need to continue to spend it responsibly and work on the diversity of decades of built up issues we face. This City budget effort assesses, confronts and corresponds with the facts that face us.
What we have done is spent the crisis period preparing ourselves for a better future. The leadership of our council, the mayor and those who support our work throughout this pandemic has been forward looking. Mayor Lightfoot's RECOVERY Task force, the capital plan-INVEST SouthWest- and the efforts of caucuses will push our tax and private dollars to communities that need it.
While there is a property tax increase, pegged to the CPI, it is as minimal as possible in this pandemic. It is allowing taxpayers like us to see more predictability in our bills, it is incremental, it is responsible and it is fair as we manage payment of our financial and legal obligations.
The revenue and management budget lines that will be voted on include a large payment for pension obligations, debt service and the budget items that are designed to get the job done, while avoiding a ratings dive. At this time, we need to support all of our frontline workers in the city as they continue to do the heavy lift in this pandemic.
While 350 layoffs of essential employees were averted by compromise, we must continue to look at ways to be more efficient, and find structural change to benefit the City in years to come.
Throughout this budget period and into the future we need to continue to we continue to make investments in mental health, returning residents and workforce development, anti-violence programs, first responder training, affordable housing and homeless prevention. We need to continue efforts of structural financial oversight and performance reform in many departments, especially the police.
During this year, we have seen changes in policies for the first time in years:
With the City’s 2021 budget plan, Chicago is directly confronting the challenge by refusing to balance its finances on the backs of our working families and continuing to prioritize our values of equity and inclusion. We will see notice of this in the bond and legal teams that you have supported, bringing unprecedented minority participation in these deals after decades of asking.
We’ve seen other efforts being taken on by Mayor Lightfoot’s Administration including:
· TIF claw backs for firms failing to follow rules in redevelopment agreements and new oversight rules that total over $80 million back to the city
· TIF surplus of funds over $350 million being redirected back to taxing bodies
· Parking meter true-up costs that were out of control are balanced and the City will come out even with the meter company on this issue for the first time in a decade.
· Reissuing RFPs for contracts that were simply extended on an annual basis without competitive bidding will save millions.
Fiscal decisions being made with the long term social and financial health of our City in mind, including reducing department expenditures where possible, exempt employees taking a week of furloughs, tasking the new Office of the Chief Risk Officer with finding personnel, program and policy changes that reduce expenditures and liability for the City on a myriad of issues.
I believe this budget represents the City’s roadmap toward a fiscally responsible recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as it focuses on the values of equity, transparency, and inclusion, and our ongoing efforts to redirect funding to our neighborhoods most in need.
I stand in strong support of this well balanced budget as it is the best way forward and represents our best path to recovery and the future of Chicago.
Thank you colleagues, thank you Mayor Lightfoot.