Brizard talks taxes days after CPS budget revealed

August 8, 2011 3:37:17 PM PDT
Days after releasing the 2012 budget, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard spoke for the first time about the plan that calls for a property tax increase.

Brizard said despite deep cuts, more money is needed to a bridge a $712 million gap in the Chicago Public Schools budget. CPS released its budget -- which includes raising property taxes to the maximum -- to the public late Friday. Brizard and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were unavailable to answer questions about the plan Friday and over the weekend.

"We kept the cuts as far away from you as we could," Brizard told students about the budget on Monday, the first day of school at Harper High School on the city's South Side. However, in the $400 million cuts, some after school programs will get the axe, as well as some teachers employed by the neighborhood schools. Meanwhile, the number of magnet schools will be increased.

The final element to attack the overall $700 million deficit is a maximum property tax increase, which would cost a $250,000 homeowner an additional $84 a year.

Just last week, Mayor Emanuel said a tax increase to run government was out of the question. On July 29, he said, "Tax payers as we all know feel nickeled and dimed as it relates to taxes."

"We're not looking to nickel and dime people. This is about the education of our children, the future of our city," Brizard said.

The taxpayers at Harper High School are divided over the plan.

"Anything that can benefit for these kids, I'm for it," Clifford Fields, parent, said.

"I don't think it's fair because I'm a senior and we're already paying enough taxes. They [are] trying to get blood from a turnip," Geraldine Scott, taxpayer, said.

"I don't want taxes to go up at all but I prefer to pay for schooling than some of the other things on my tax bill," Arnella Holloway, parent, said.

The proposed budget was written by Brizard and the school board all appointed by Mayor Emanuel.

"Once we've reached this point, the decisions have been pretty much made," Don Moore said. Moore is the director of Designs for Change, a CPS watchdog group, has called for an independent audit of CPS before any cuts or tax increases are approved.

"I think people would be willing to see more money spent on the schools if they were sure what the situation was but they're really not sure," Moore said.

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