Emanuel defends CPS property tax hike plan

August 9, 2011 2:53:19 PM PDT
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a plan to raise property taxes is part of the ''cut and invest'' strategy for Chicago Public Schools.

The tax hike that would benefit CPS was announced last Friday when the school system unveiled its 2012 budget. Mayor Emanuel took ownership of the tax increase plan, which was formulated by public schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Chicago School Board members that the mayor appointed. Emanuel said the new revenue -- $150 million in taxpayer money -- is part of his "cut and invest" strategy that required major reforms at CPS.

He said the homeowners could look at the increase of property taxes as an investment in the school system now that CPS had cut spending and improved efficiency to the tune of $400 million.

"I have no tolerance for a overblown bureaucracy and I have no tolerance for inefficiency," Mayor Emanuel said.

Despite the cuts, Mayor Emanuel said the district still would open 6,000 more full day kindergarten slots; accept 2,500 more students to its magnet schools; open five additional charter schools; install 1,400 more security cameras; and expand the teaching academies without increasing class size.

"We gotta make the tough choices and I believe, in fact, that they are doing that, and I am not done changing it," Mayor Emanuel said.

Emanuel suggested that CPS -- with its $712 million deficit -- is farther along the road to reform than city government. Last week, the mayor said he would not ask taxpayers to fill city hall's $635 million shortfall because that system was still broken.

Several aldermen are publicly questioning the CPS tax increase by asking if $150 million might be available from a source other than taxpayers.

"Can we look at the TIF program, has there been an evaluation of that program, to see if we pull CPS out of there, bring another 250 million into their coffers and help close this budget gap that way, as opposed to asking taxpayers to reach deeper into their pockets," Ald. John Arena (45 Ward) said.

Aldermen have a political stake in the CPS tax increase. Once the school board approves its 2012 budget, the city council must approve the district's tax levy increase. The numbers suggest that taxpayers will pay an additional $84 every year per $250,000 in property value.

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