CPS public hearing focuses on tax hike proposal

August 10, 2011 9:23:06 PM PDT
Homeowners got their first chance Wednesday night to tell Chicago's school board what they think about paying higher property taxes.

The board released its budget proposal last week and there is plenty of criticism.

Considering the rather dry topic, next year's Chicago Public Schools budget, it was a relatively large crowd that filled the non-air conditioned auditorium at Lane Tech High School.

One item in the 1,000-page budget got much of the attention: a proposed property tax increase.

"This budget is clearly the result of political priorities - often simple lies that have been imposed from elsewhere," said parent George Schmidt.

"How is this sound educational planning? Please explain this to me," said teacher Debbie Polk.

The board is considering an increase of about $84 a year on a home valued at $250,000.

They say they are also making deep cuts, including $87 million in program reductions. Even with the cuts, they will still have a shortfall of about $241 million that they will have to use reserve funds to pay.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says her organization could have helped prioritize the budget, but no one asked.

"It would be really good if CPS would take a leap of faith and work with us at the very beginning of the budget process instead of now, where it's kind of, like, done - and here it is," said Lewis.

North Side Alderman Tom Tunney said many of his constituents could live with a tax increase if they felt like they were getting something in return.

"Nobody wants to pay more taxes, and yet, I believe that the quest for more quality education and more choices outweighs their decision right now," said Tunney.

The board has scheduled two more public hearings on this proposed budget and tax increase. The hearings are set for Thursday and Friday. They could vote on the entire proposal by the end of the month.

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