Chicago City Council approves Mayor Lightfoot's 2021 budget proposal, property tax increase

ByCraig Wall and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Chicago City Council approves 2021 budget proposal, property tax increase
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The vote means that a $94 million property tax increase goes into effect next year and with it, an annual increase tied to the rate of inflation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago City Council voted to approve Mayor Lori Lightfoot's $12.8 billion budget plan, including a property tax increase.

The budget passed Tuesday afternoon on a vote of 29 to 21. The property tax levy then passed on a 28-22 vote.

WATCH: Drama unfolds as aldermen debate 2021 budget

"This was a very difficult budget," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "Probably the most challenging in the history of our city."

The vote means that a $94 million property tax increase goes into effect next year. It includes an automatic annual cost of living increase that runs through 2058, with the money earmarked for pensions.

"Don't give me crumbs and tell me it's cake," said Ald. Jeannette Taylor, 20th Ward.

It was that aspect of the budget battle that brought the most debate at City Hall on both sides of the issue. The average Chicago homeowner with a $250,000 house is expected to pay $56 more a year.

"I'm willing to sacrifice that so that the residents on the West Side of Chicago and on the South Side of Chicago can live a peaceful life," said Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th Ward.

"I know that this seems like a modest increase. Perhaps in some communities, that is true. But in the 1st Ward, of the past 20 years, property taxes have gone up by 357%" Ald. Daniel La Spata said.

WATCH: Chicago mayor unveils 2021 budget proposal

After threatening Black aldermen that they'd get no support in the wards if they didn't back her budget, Lightfoot won them over with an additional $10 million investment in violence prevention, for a total of $36 million.

"We know what works, and we know what doesn't work," said Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward. "We do know that investing in violence prevention and violence interruption changes the trajectory of these numbers in our city."

Others won over with a deal to save union workers from layoffs and furloughs.

"No layoffs of the 350 Union positions slated for elimination, and no furloughs for non-union staff making less than $100,000," said Ald. Michael Rodriguez, 22nd Ward.

But the $12.9 billion budget drew criticism for refinancing more than $1.7 billion in debt.

WATCH: Political analyst Laura Washington discusses Chicago budget

"This is what I call 'scoop and toss' on steroids," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward. "We are borrowing and refinancing $1.7 billion to kick the barrel down the road. Not the can, but we are kicking the barrel down the road."

The budget also raises the gas tax by $0.03 a gallon and lowers the speed camera threshold to just 6 MPH over the limit.

"I vote yes reluctantly because of the moment we find ourselves in in the city, and as a government," said Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th Ward.

Some progressives felt shut out.

"I cast my vote against this budget, in spite of your threats and in support of the people we were elected to serve," said Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward.

"With the passage of our 2021 pandemic budget, we have done what is right for our residents and taking a critical step in our journey toward becoming a stronger more resilient city," Lightfoot said.