Mayor Lightfoot lays out 'recovery budget' forecast amid massive shortfall

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid out her budget forecast and while she still faces a massive budget shortfall, she is counting on federal relief money to help plug the gap.

The mayor said that better-than-expected revenues and the improving economy have significantly improved the city's fiscal outlook, and at this point it does not look like there will be a need for a property tax hike.

Lightfoot had an optimistic forecast for Chicago's budget next year, despite the ongoing pandemic. She said the numbers indicate Chicago will be facing a $733 million revenue shortfall for 2022,
But she said that's a 40% improvement from last year when the budget gap was $1.2 billion.

"We have shifted from a pandemic budget to a recovery budget. We still have hard work to do in order to close this gap, but this figure is but another great indication that our city is bouncing back from this crisis," Lightfoot said.

The mayor is counting on being able to use part of the $1.8 billion the city is expecting as part of the American Rescue Plan funds to cover the shortfall.

Without being specific, the mayor said money should go to retire city debt, deal with ongoing pandemic mitigations, make holistic investments in communities that have been hardest hit, and invest in ways to deal with the root causes of violence.

"We have one time to use it and get it right and I'm determined that we do just that," she said.

One alderman stressed the concerns of the city council have to be taken into consideration.

"If this budget process is going to be a top down approach then you're gonna get pushback," said 36th Ward Ald. Gil Villegas.

Lightfoot said with the new eight-year police contract there will have to be more money for the police department. And some of the American Rescue Plan money may need to be held for an emergency COVID fund in case the pandemic takes a turn for the worse.

Lightfoot hopes new taxes can be avoided.

"It's our hope that we will not need to raise and by taxes I assume you mean property taxes, it's our hope that we will not have to use that too," said Mayor Lightfoot.

The city will host two more community budget listening events Wednesday and Thursday. The mayor will present her budget proposal to the city council in September.
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