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Layoffs Averted, But Sticking Points Remain As Budget Ordinances Set For Monday Rollout

The proposed property tax hike has some officials skeptical the mayor will have enough votes by Nov. 24, when the budget is scheduled for a final vote.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is set to introduce ordinances on Monday formalizing her $12.8 billion budget proposal for 2021.
Madison Hopkins/BGA
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CHICAGO — Negotiations are set to intensify this week as Mayor Lori Lightfoot rolls out ordinances to formalize her $12.8 billion budget proposal, even after the mayor announced a deal with labor leaders to avert more than 300 potential layoffs next year.

The agreement, announced on Saturday, was made possible because of higher-than-expected tax revenue from cannabis sales, according to city financial officials. The city will borrow an additional $15 million against the pot revenue at a rate of 3.25 percent, officials said.

RELATED: Read The Daily Line’s full coverage of the Chicago 2021 budget

The extra funds “will ensure Chicago’s public workers, the backbone of our neighborhoods, maintain their jobs and health insurance while also protecting the critical services Chicagoans rely on during these unprecedented times,” according to a joint statement released Saturday by the mayor’s office and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Lightfoot will also scale back her plan to ask non-union city workers to take furlough days next year. As part of the labor agreement, only non-union employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 — including the mayor and aldermen — will take the five unpaid days. The furlough originally would have applied to workers making more than $50,000.

The announcement is likely to somewhat smooth Lightfoot’s path to earning 26 votes for her budget proposal. But many sticking points remain, especially the mayor’s plan to hike the city’s property tax levy by $93.9 million and put the levy on a path to increase incrementally every year. The controversy has some officials skeptical the mayor will have enough votes by Nov. 24, when the budget is scheduled for a final vote.

Budget Ordinances Include ‘Welcoming Ordinance’ Expansion, Revocation Of Ride-share Credit

Some aldermen were incensed last week after being sent summaries of the mayor’s budget ordinances — set for introduction during Monday’s City Council meeting — that included a long-promised expansion of the city’s “welcoming ordinance” for undocumented immigrants.

That measure (O2019-5596), which Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) introduced last year with the backing of 30 other aldermen, would expand existing rules that restrict Chicago Police from working with federal immigration agents. Lightfoot on Thursday called the measure “essential” to keeping her promise to undocumented immigrants, but Ramirez-Rosa called its inclusion in the budget ordinance a “ploy” to earn more votes, according to WTTW, which first reported on the ordinance.

RELATED: Aldermen to weigh proposal to expand protections for undocumented immigrants

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), the mayor’s most vocal City Council critic, called Lightfoot’s bid to tether immigrant protections to the budget a “very sleazy move.”

The budget “management ordinance” set for introduction Monday, which includes items not directly related to city finances, will also codify the creation of a new City Council Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Aldermen including Lopez, Ramirez-Rosa, Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33th) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) have criticized the proposed new committee, saying immigration-related issues should be weighed by the council’s existing Committee on Health and Human Relations.

Aldermen on Friday were also sent a summary of items set to be included in the budget “revenue ordinance,” including a plan to eliminate a 50 percent tax credit offered to rideshare drivers who make trips to “underserved areas.” The annual structure of the credit “does not create an incentive to provide trips in underserved areas” and only benefits rideshare companies, according to city finance officials, who estimated eliminating the credit could save the city up to $6 million annually.

The revenue ordinance will also include the following other measures, according to the summary document:

  • Tying the city’s property tax levy to annual increases in the cost of living, generating a projected $35 million in additional revenue next year.
  • Increasing city’s lease tax on cloud computing services from 7.25 percent to 9 percent, raising an additional $15 million.
  • Guarding $16 million in rideshare fees within the city budget instead of using the funds to subsidize the CTA, as the city has since 2018.
  • Increasing the city’s vehicle fuel tax from $0.05 to $0.08, raising an additional $10 million for the city.
  • Adding more parking meters to raise an additional $2.5 million.
  • Tying commercial refuse container fees to annual increases in the cost of living, generating a projected $270,000 in additional revenue next year.
  • Giving the Chicago Department of Water Management authority to administer the city’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, including by creating a grant program to help “income-qualified homeowners” replace their service lines.
  • Empowering the city comptroller to “waive fees and set payment plans” for people who use public ambulance services.
  • Providing a one-time account credit for utility customers who opt for paperless billing.
  • Raising harbor permit fees and fines for an additional $15,000 in annual revenue.

A spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management clarified that the ordinances were “still being finalized” when the summaries were sent to aldermen early Friday.

Aldermen are scheduled to consider the management ordinance during a meeting of the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations on Wednesday, officials said. The revenue ordinance will go before the council’s Committee on Finance on Thursday.

Regular Business

In addition to holding an extended public hearing in which residents are invited to weigh in on Lightfoot’s budget proposal, the City Council is scheduled on Monday to approve the following items that have been approved by various committees since last month:

O2020-5166 — An intergovernmental agreement with CTA for the city to buy property at 4331-4359 W. Chicago Ave. in the 37th Ward, next to the city’s planned Police and Fire Training Academy, for new Peach’s and Culver’s restaurants.

O2020-5179 — Sale of city-owned properties at 1138 N Christiana Ave, 1142 N Christiana Ave, 1702 N Monticello Ave, 3724 W LeMoyne St., 3331 W LeMoyne St. and 2341 W Erie St. to L&MC Investments for $3.1 million for the construction of affordable homes.

O2020-4591 — An intergovernmental agreement allowing the city to store materials on five CTA properties near the intersection of Pulaski Road and Maypole Avenue in the 28th Ward. The agreement was originally scheduled for approval in September but was deferred.

O2020-5178 — An agreement with City Colleges of Chicago for the use of office space at 400 W. Superior St. and 740 N. Sedgwick St. in the 42nd Ward.

O2020-5169 — Sale of a city-owned property at 4346-4348 S. King Dr. in the 3rd Ward to Dantzler Management, Inc. for development of single-family homes.

O2020-4830 — An ordinance extending the city’s amnesty period for expired business licenses through Jan. 30, 2021.

O2020-4992 — An ordinance to lift a liquor sale moratorium on Ashland Avenue between Blackhawk Street and North Avenue in the 2nd Ward.

O2020-4992 — An ordinance reinstating a liquor sale moratorium on 103rd Street between Calumet Avenue and Vernon Avenue in the 9th Ward.

O2020-4994 — An ordinance to lift a liquor sale moratorium on Diversey Avenue between Kimball Avenue and Central Park Avenue in the 35th Ward.

O2020-4997 — An ordinance to lift a liquor sale moratorium on Elston Avenue between Kedzie Avenue and Grace Street in the 35th Ward.

O2020-4825 — An ordinance to lift a liquor sale moratorium on Ashland Avenue between Addison Street and Grace Street in the 44th Ward.

O2020-5168 — A five-year collective bargaining agreement with Teamsters Local Union No. 700 for 27 employees who work in the Office of Emergency Management and Communications

A2020-175-188 — Appointments of the following new members to the city’s Advisory Council on New Americans: Alicja Stanczyk Otap, Laith Shaaban, Ganiat Surami, Diana Rubi, Alma Rodriguez, Katarina Ramos, Gerald Polanco, Jennifer Rosato Perea, Barbara Munube, Sara Miranda, Mabel Menard, Taneka Hye Wol Jennings, Hoan Huynh and Radhika Sharma Gordon.

A2020-173A2020-174 — Appointment of Loren Simmons and Linda Xochitl as members of the Advisory Council on Women.

A2020-170 — Appointment of Winston Feng as a member of Special Service Area No. 34, Uptown Commission.

A2020-171 — Appointment of Karen Nieto as a member of Special Service Area No. 59, 59th Street Commission.

A2020-172 — Appointment of Kendra M. Boyd as a member of Special Service Area No. 59, 59th Street Commission.