Proposed CPS budget includes property tax hike

August 5, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Late Friday, Chicago Public Schools board released a $5.9 billion budget proposal that calls for the maximum tax hike allowed by law.

An e-mail news release announced the tough choices ahead for the Chicago Public Schools, which still face a $712 million budget deficit. The district also e-mailed a "budget fact sheet" that outlined the strategy for balancing the shortfall. For the first time it will include raising $150 million by increasing the Chicago property tax to the allowable limit. An average homeowner, with property worth $250,000, would see his tax bill increased by $84 a year.

Last week, when he released the preliminary budget for city government, Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted he would not increase taxes to maintain city services and explained why.

"The taxpayers, as we all know, feel nickeled and dimed as it relates to taxes," he said last Friday.

But schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard, who was appointed by Emanuel, will ask the school board, also appointed by the mayor, to raise taxes for the public schools.

The tax increase is the final action taken to resolve the CPS deficit. Among other moves the district already has cut central office staff, laid off teachers and rescinded a scheduled teacher pay raise.

"Our initial reaction is that the administration is proposing to make some very difficult choices which, considering the fiscal situation right now, are reasonable on balance," said Lise Valentine of the Chicago Civic Federation.

The Chicago teachers criticized CPS for unveiling its budget late on a Friday, leaving little time to review the details.

As ABC7's phone calls seeking more information failed to be answered, reporter Charles Thomas went to CPS headquarters. Thomas and his cameraman were stopped in the lobby and told no one was available to talk about a proposed tax increase for every homeowner in the city of Chicago. Brizard was in his office but unavailable for comment.

In what is becoming the style of the newly-elected and installed powers that be in the City of Chicago, officials waited until late Friday afternoon to release the controversial news and once again, the mayor is out of town when it hits.

The school board must hold hearings on its budget. It is unclear when those hearings will take place.

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