CPS budget includes property tax hike proposal

August 11, 2009 (CHICAGO) The CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Ron Huberman, says it's necessary to keep teachers in the classrooms and pay their pensions. He says the school system needs $43 million in new taxes.

The 1.5 percent increase is of the school board's portion of the tax bill, not the entire bill.

The board has raised taxes every year Mayor Daley has been in charge of the schools except last year.

School district administrators insist students will see few changes in the classroom. Outside the classroom, however, it's a different story as the board is making cuts to try to close a nearly $500 million budget hole. Huberman says he's cut everywhere he can but he needs to raise taxes.

"If we thought that we could get by without it, trust me, we would have," said Huberman.

Huberman hopes to raise $43 million dollars to contribute to the teacher's pension fund by raising property taxes. On a median level, a Chicago home worth $262,000. The 1.5 percent increase would amount to $18 a year.

Huberman says Mayor Daley has seen the numbers but the mayor brushed off questions on Tuesday.

"We have not talked yet," said Mayor Daley.

Taxpayers will have their chance to comment on the proposed tax increase during public hearings next week. But a sample of opinion on Tuesday night suggests it's a tough sell.

"It's already a recession. It would just make things hard on people struggling already," said Dan Lawson, Chicago resident.

The Chicago Civic Federation which examines the CPS budget calls the proposed increase modest and reasonable. But they say the real challenge is coming.

"The pension situation is a ticking time bomb for CPS. The Civic Federation believes the state officials, union and CPS should work together to try to diffuse the situation," said Genevieve Nolan, Chicago Civic Federation.

Huberman says he is freezing all non-union salaries and plans to talk to the unions about possible concessions.

"I think its unfair to ask teachers who have dedicated themselves and have already given the board a $2 billion boost over the last ten years for more concessions," said Rosemaria Genova, Chicago Teachers Union press secretary.

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for early next week. The board is expected to vote at the end of this month. If it's approved the increase would go on your November property tax bills.

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