P r o p e r t y T a x . c o m   b y    F I T Z G E R A L D   L A W   G R O U P

P R A C T I C E   L I M I T E D   T O   T H E   T A X A T I O N   O F   C O M M E R C I A L ,  I N D U S T R I A L  &  I N V E S T M E N T – G R A D E   R E A L   E S T A T E            

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Chicago is considering an increase in the transfer tax

The tax increase would apply to on any residential or commercial property sold for more than $1 million

The proposal would create a non-binding referendum that would ask the City Council to increase real estate transfer taxes to 2.65 percent from 0.75 percent.

List of Endangered Architectural Gems in Chicago

Promontory Point makes Preservation Chicago’s annual ‘most endangered’ list

“Today, the historic revetment at Promontory Point is all that is left of a once eight-mile-long stretch of beautiful limestone transitions between nature and the city,” Preservation Chicago said.

Promontory Point, an artificially created peninsula located between 54th and 56th Streets along the city’s lakefront, made the Preservation Chicago’s annual ‘Chicago 7 Most Endangered.’
Promontory Point, an artificially created peninsula located between 54th and 56th Streets along the city’s lakefront, made the Preservation Chicago’s annual ‘Chicago 7 Most Endangered.’

Eric Allix Rogers for Preservation Chicago

Promontory Point, one of the most beloved spots on the south shoreline of Lake Michigan, has been named to Preservation Chicago’s annual “most endangered” list.

The peninsula in Burnham Park is among eight historic buildings or public assets that made the list. It’s usually a list of seven, but the group threw in an additional site this year.

Built 84 years ago between 54th and 56th streets, Promontory Point’s revetment — limestone slabs forming giant steps along the water — has deteriorated over the years, thanks to rising waters and natural decay.

Now, Preservation Chicago contends, the city and Chicago Park District plan to tear out the limestone and replace it with concrete slabs, “destroying not only the historic stepstone revetment, but also the naturalistic aesthetic of this Alfred Caldwell-designed park,” Preservation Chicago said in its report. “This irreversible alteration will adversely affect the open and diverse community culture that has thrived for decades at Promontory Point, moving this historic site further away from its original design and setting a precedent for future unsympathetic alterations.”

Caldwell was an architect with the Chicago Park District and designed the landscape plan for Promontory Point.

According to the preservation group, the city has a history of replacing limestone along the lakefront with massive concrete and steel structures — everywhere except The Point.

The limestone revetment at Promontory Point in Burnham Park is decaying and needs protection, according to Preservation Chicago, which put the site on its “most endangered” list.
The limestone revetment at Promontory Point in Burnham Park is decaying and needs protection, according to Preservation Chicago, which put the site on its “most endangered” list.

Sun-Times file

“Today, the historic revetment at Promontory Point is all that is left of a once eight-mile-long stretch of beautiful limestone transitions between nature and the city,” Preservation Chicago said.

Preservation Chicago said despite its age, the revetment continues to protect the parkland behind it from the harsh waves of Lake Michigan, though major repairs are needed.

The advocacy group has recommended the city and Chicago Park District designate The Point as a Chicago landmark, making it nearly impossible for it to be demolished.

Preservation Chicago has made its list every year since 2003 to call attention to the risk facing not-yet-classified landmarks and what it would mean to lose such historic structures.

“It’s a somber time as we spotlight these remarkable endangered structures which cover so much area of the city,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “The threats to our historic built environment are all across Chicago, but we have hope for our city that these places can be reused, repurposed and protected, making them a cornerstone to grow communities sensitively and holistically.”

Also on Preservation Chicago’s 2022 list:

Cabrini Row Houses, Lathrop Homes-South Campus and two non-residential buildings at Altgeld Gardens: The Chicago Housing Authority has demolished many of its buildings over the years, with the promise to attract more affordable housing — a promise not yet met, according to Preservation Chicago.

Instead, Preservation Chicago wants those parts of the Cabrini, Lathrop and Altgeld complexes restored and put back “into good use for the people.”

Cabrini Row Houses is made up of 586 units on 16 acres and has mostly fallen into disrepair. About 140 units have been restored but the vast majority have been left to deteriorate.
Cabrini Row Houses contains586 units on 16 acres and has mostly fallen into disrepair. About 140 units have been restored but the vast majority have been left to deteriorate.

Ward Miller for Preservation Chicago

St. Martin de Tours: The Gothic structure at 5848 S. Princeton, was designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks for a Catholic parish in Englewood that at the time had a predominantly German congregation..

As the neighborhood changed, it continued to thrive for years as a parish with a mostly Black congregation. But it closed in 1989 and since then has remained untouched and suffered significant deterioration.

St. Martin de Tours at 5848 S. Princeton is a striking Gothic structure that is in need of major repair to avoid demolition.
St. Martin de Tours at 5848 S. Princeton is a striking Gothic structure that is in need of major repair to avoid demolition.

Eric Allix Rogers for Preservation Chicago

Central Park Theater: Preservation Chicago said this building at 3535 W. Roosevelt Rd. has contributed significantly to the arts and culture of North Lawndale from the time it opened in 1917.

It has been the home of House of Prayer Church of God in Christ since 1971. But over the past five decades, it has deteriorated and the list of needed repairs has grown immensely as the churches congregation has dwindled.

The Central Park Theater was completed in 1917 and was a hub for arts and culture in North Lawndale and then became a house of worship in 1971.
The Central Park Theater was completed in 1917 and was a hub for arts and culture in North Lawndale and then became a house of worship in 1971.

Deborah Mercer for Preservation Chicago

Peterson Avenue Mid-century Modern District: This two-mile stretch from North Park to West Ridge hosts an ensemble of Mid-century Modern architecture.

However, many of those buildings along Peterson Avenue are under threat of demolition, and many others already have been torn down.

There are a slew of significant buildings along Peterson Avenue built in the Mid-century Modern style. A two-mile stretch featuring an assortment of such buildings that are under threat of demolition has made Preservation Chicago’s new ‘most endangered’ list.
There are a slew of significant buildings along Peterson Avenue built in the Mid-century Modern style. A two-mile stretch featuring an assortment of such buildings that are under threat of demolition has made Preservation Chicago’s new ‘most endangered’ list.

Preservation Chicago

The Century and Consumers buildings: The Century at 202 S. State St. and the Consumers at 220 S. State St. are in the heart of the Chicago Loop and in the city’s Central Business District.

Despite that prime location, they are suffering from both low occupancy rates, as well as years of deferred maintenance, causing concern for their future.

The site has made the list before.

Preservation Chicago called the Century “a rare example Neo-Manueline” architecture, a Portuguese style that influenced architecture in the Midwest. And the Consumers building (foreground in picture) is clad in white architectural terra cotta, made in Chicago.

The Century and Consumers Buildings located at 202 S. State St. and 220 S. State St. is located int he heart of The Loop but years of deferred maintenance is concerning.
The Century and Consumers Buildings located at 202 S. State St. and 220 S. State St. is located int he heart of The Loop but years of deferred maintenance is concerning.

Eric Allix Rogers for Preservation Chicago

North DuSable Lake Shore Drive: The once “slow-paced, boulevard parkway” has morphed into a quasi-highway that has gradually removed its aesthetic of being a road Chicagoans can use to enjoy the city’s beautiful lakefront, the preservation group contends.

To prevent that situation from getting any worse, Preservation Chicago recommends rebuilding bridges and underpasses. It also opposes any further widening of the road to add more lanes.

DuSable_NLSD_Eric_Allix_Rogers__1_.jpg
Preservation Chicago is calling for the city to not expand any lanes on North DuSable Lake Shore Drive but invest in rebuilding bridges and underpasses.

Eric Allix Rogers for Preservation Chicago

Moody Triangle: This site in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood is bounded by Clark Street, North Avenue, and LaSalle Drive.

In it are three buildings that Preservation Chicago believes are threatened by looming redevelopment around the campus of Moody Bible Institute: the Wintrust Bank building, 100 W. North Ave; Moody Memorial Church, 1635 N. LaSalle Dr.; and Archway Standard Station/BP Service Station, 1647 N. LaSalle Dr.

Moody Memorial Church, 1635 N. LaSalle Dr., is part of what Preservation Chicago is calling the “Moody Triangle.”
Moody Memorial Church, 1635 N. LaSalle Dr., is part of what Preservation Chicago is calling the “Moody Triangle.”

Sun-Times file

The swooping canopy at the BP station at North Avenue at LaSalle Street. The site, along with a nearby Wintrust bank and Moody Memorial Church, are on an endangered site Preservation Chicago calls “The Moody Triangle.”
The swooping canopy at the BP station at North Avenue at LaSalle Street. The site, along with a nearby Wintrust bank and Moody Memorial Church, are on an endangered site Preservation Chicago calls “The Moody Triangle.”

Ward Miller for Preservation Chicago

City of Chicago Pensions Need More Reforms

Adam Schuster

Senior Director of Budget and Tax Research

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Chicago pension debt drove city property taxes up 164% before COVID-19

City property taxes rose 30% faster than in suburban Cook County from 2000 to 2019. Record inflation in 2022 will bring increases statewide in 2023.

Chicago property taxpayers were asked for 164% more in the 20 years before COVID-19 hit, but the hikes really escalated in 2015 and more pain is expected as inflation drives up local governments’ abilities to ask for more.

And they will ask for more, because massive pension debts are forcing them to.

As homeowners pay their first Cook County property tax installment on March 1, 2022, a look back at how Chicago got to this point should start in 2015. That’s when former Mayor Rahm Emanuel set off a $543 million property tax hike, with all that new money going toward pensions. It’s also when city residents started seeing taxes grow nearly 30% faster than suburban Cook County residents.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has continued Emanuel’s tax-hike legacy. The average Chicago property taxpayer paid $255 extra in 2021, when city residents were collectively asked for $94 million more. Then in 2022 the average was hiked another $180 for a grand total of $76.5 million in new money.

But the pensions keep consuming: $2.3 billion of the $16.7 billion city budget in 2022. That is every dollar from Chicago’s $1.7 billion property tax levy, and then some. Total pension costs equal 21.4% of the city’s own-source revenue.

Despite eating more, the pensions are in desperate shape and perhaps the worst of any in Illinois. The eight funds Chicago taxpayers are responsible for hold $46.9 billion in unfunded liabilities, more pension debt than 45 U.S. states.

Broken down, that is $43,995 per household. Add in the pension debt for the five statewide systems, and each Chicago household is responsible for eventually paying $81,679 per household beyond current tax collections.

Those outside Chicago also carry a heavy property tax load, and more is coming. Because of runaway inflation, 2022 will be the first year local governments subject to tax caps will be able to raise property taxes up to the maximum 5% allowed by law.

Still, more property taxes going to pensions has not prevented local governments from owing $75 billion in pension debt. The statewide average state and local pension debt per household is $45,151.

Combined with the more than $144 billion in debt officially reported by the five statewide pension systems

While the state reports an improvement to $139.9 billion in fiscal year 2021 after strong market returnsexperienced by nearly all large pension funds, Moody’s Investors Service in late September 2021 reported debt in the five state systems at $312.6 billion. Moody’s uses more accurate accounting methods similar to those required in the private sector.

Chicago residential property tax collections across all units of government in the city were up 164% from 2000 to 2019.

Property taxes paid by homeowners within the city grew nearly 30% faster than property taxes in suburban Cook County during those 20 years. Suburban residential property taxes grew 116% while total residential property tax collections county-wide grew 133%.

While some of Chicago’s increase was driven by new property or growth in existing property tax values, the average homeowner still saw an 85% increase in their bill from 2000 to 2019. Since the record-setting 2015 property tax hike to pay for pension debt, the average Chicago bill has risen 27%. Prior to that hike, property taxes were on a lower trend from 2011 to 2014.

In 2019, the average Chicago homeowner paid $3,342 in property taxes on an average home value of $258,000 for an effective rate of 1.3%.

Even though total tax extensions – the amount of taxes requested by government units in a taxing area – grew slower in the suburbs, the bill paid by the average residential homeowner grew faster than in Chicago during the 20 years at 95.6%. This indicates the suburbs saw slower growth in taxable property value.

Pension debt is also a leading cause of municipal property tax increases outside Chicago, where many medium- and large-size cities face similar challenges keeping up with unaffordable retirement benefit structures.

However, Chicago median residential property tax bills have grown faster than the suburbs since 2015. The average suburban bill has grown roughly a third as fast as in Chicago since the 2015 pension property tax hike, at just 9.6% compared to Chicago’s 27%.

In 2019, the average Cook County suburban homeowner paid $5,971 in property taxes on a home valued at $246,600 for an effective rate of 2.4%.

Commercial property taxes grew slower across the board from 2000 to 2019, at 81% within Chicago and 54% in the suburbs. That could change soon with new assessment procedures put in place by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, which will cause business property taxes to rise faster.

Chicago’s pension spending is up nearly $1 billion just during the three years Lightfoot has been in office and nearly 500% since 2004 in nominal terms. Without significant reforms, it will continue to grow.

Because of restrictive legal interpretations of the Illinois pension clause, only a constitutional amendment can unlock meaningful reforms.

The Illinois Policy Institute has proposed a “hold harmless” constitutional amendment to allow for reductions in future benefit growth for current workers and retirees. It would still treat benefits earned for work already performed as an inviolable contract, but would clarify that adjustments can be made going forward to ensure pensions are sustainable and affordable.

Recent polling by the institute showed 61% of voters supported such an amendment, with broad bipartisan agreement. That represents enough support to pass at the ballot box, but first Springfield lawmakers must pass the amendment to give voters that chance.

Property taxpayers throughout Chicago and Cook County deserve the opportunity to vote on their best option for lasting relief.

Property Tax has Outpaced Inflation

Chicago property taxes nearly doubled in a decade

Chicago property taxpayers face a nearly 5% hike this year after a decade in which their bills nearly doubled. The city failed to capitalize on the COVID-19 stimulus windfall like others did.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, monetary and government stimulus that disproportionately benefited the wealthy led to higher stock prices and housing valuations. Booming markets and growing housing values, coupled with federal aid, boosted tax revenues for states and local governments.

While Chicago could have used the windfall to freeze property taxes, Chicagoans will have no such luck. This year, the city’s gross property tax levy will increase by another 4.9%. This tax increase will disproportionately hurt low-income, cash-strapped homeowners and renters. This is because the city’s budget includes large increases in debt service and pension payments.

Pension fund contributions are increasing by 24.7% from the prior year. That adds up to nearly $1 billion in pension spending increases since Lori Lightfoot became Chicago’s  mayor. Over the decade, the city’s public pensions cost has increased 239%, despite spending for city services only growing 18% during that same period.

Although the city of Chicago, a home rule unit of government, is not subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, it has its own self-imposed property tax limitation. That annual property tax extension is limited to 5% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. However, the city’s tax cap does not completely limit the total extension since some funds  – such as bond funds and pension funds  – and some of the tax base, such as new property, are excluded from the calculation.

With inflation topping 7% in 2021 – the highest in 40 years – the city’s property tax levy is likely to increase even more in 2022, and Chicagoans will face even larger property tax bills.

Historically, low-income families have paid an unfair share of property taxes. In addition, renters will also be negatively affected because landlords shift most of the increased tax burden to tenants. Given an 11.4% increase in housing values in 2021, due in large part to a shortage of housing units, many renters – and prospective buyers have been kept on the sidelines, and rents have increased. The increase in property taxes will push rents even higher.

Low-income Chicagoans are already feeling the inflation squeeze

For years, Chicagoans’ property tax bills have increased faster than home values and incomes, with lower income residents paying an unfair share of property taxes.

While the tax levy is set to increase by less than the increase in housing values this year, worker earnings adjusted for inflation fell in 2021.

Falling worker earnings mean that scheduled property tax increases will disproportionately hurt cash-strapped – liquidity constrained – families. In addition, it is renters who will suffer the most from the tax hikes because research shows that landlords shift most of the increased tax incidence to tenants.

In 2021, U.S. consumer prices rose by 7%. One third of that increase came from an increase in shelter costs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While housing prices increased by 11.4%, rents also increased by 8.5% in the Chicago area.

Pre-existing housing shortages and lagging construction contributed to bidding wars and rapid housing price increases that left many young families priced out of homeownership, resulting in them paying more rent.

Low-income households are already seeing a higher share of their income go to shelter, food and utilities. In addition, inflation has already wiped out any “excess” savings accumulated during the pandemic, and further price increases will disproportionately cause more pain for the have-nots than for wealthier Chicagoans.

Pension reform is progressive government policy

In 2022, Chicago’s pension costs will consume more than $2.3 billion of the city’s budget – 21.4% of the city’s own source revenue. Pension costs already exceed the city’s total property tax levy of $1.7 billion this year. Amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for adjustments to the future growth in pension benefits for current workers and retirees can accomplish at least one of two progressive objectives: increase city spending on its poorest residents, or stop further property tax hikes that disproportionately hurt low-income and middle-income families.

Orphe Divounguy

Chief Economist                                           FEBRUARY 3, 2022

Ongoing spike in inflation is likely to drive an increase in Chicago property taxes next year.

Under a budget rule passed under Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2020, property taxes are tied to inflation. The federal cost of living numbers for December show a 7% increase in the national consumer price index from the previous year, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Wednesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before Chicago aldermen during a City Hall meeting on Oct. 29, 2021. Under a budget rule passed under Lightfoot in 2020, property taxes are tied to inflation.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before Chicago aldermen during a City Hall meeting on Oct. 29, 2021. Under a budget rule passed under Lightfoot in 2020, property taxes are tied to inflation. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

That means property taxes are set to go up 5% next year — the ceiling Lightfoot set for a single-year jump.

The 2022 inflation-linked tax hike of 1.4% is set to bring in $22.9 million to help the city meet its woefully underfunded public pensions. That increase will cost the owner of a $250,000 home $18 a year.

It’s too early to say how much the increase linked to the 5% bump will cost homeowners, landlords and commercial property owners. Much depends on property assessments and the total size of the tax levy.

But if the mayor sticks with the formula, property taxes will certainly go up as she and aldermen are preparing to run for reelection in the spring 2023 city elections.

Lightfoot and council members are betting voters won’t punish them politically for the tax increase because it’s not likely to be spectacularly large, and it’s already built into the 2023 budget.

Back in 2020, Lightfoot pitched aldermen on the budget measure tying an annual tax increase to the consumer price index for decades by saying it would give the city and its taxpayers a degree of financial certainty, while sparing the City Council from having periodically to enact huge, unpopular hikes.

Lightfoot could opt to ask the council to deviate from the formula. A city spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether Lightfoot might do so in the face of the 5% increase.

There’s also the matter of the inflation formula the mayor uses to set the annual tax adjustment, which then stays on the books, compounding in following years.

The Lightfoot administration chose to tie the change each year to the nationwide urban consumer price index rather than one the Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains for the Chicago area. The administration argued it makes sense to use the same inflation rate data employed in tax calculations by the Park District and Chicago Public Schools, even though the city can use whatever standard it wants as a home-rule entity.

Going back to 2012, the year-over-year December change to the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin CPI has just once exceeded the average for all U.S. cities, which includes inflation in pricier locales on the East and West coasts.

While the property tax hike based on the national figure was 1.4% in 2022, raising $22.9 million, the more local inflation rate increased by just 0.9% between December 2019 and December 2020, which would have raised taxes by $14.7 million this year.

The Chicago area’s inflation rate this year of 6.6% also lags behind the national figure, although that won’t make any difference to property tax payers for 2023 because of Lightfoot’s 5% ceiling on the tax increase in any single year.

The inflation number doesn’t tell the whole property tax story. For this year, property taxes will go up a total $76.5 million. In addition to the inflation-linked hike, there was an increase that raised $25 million to pay for Lightfoot’s capital spending plan, while another $28.6 million was raised through assessments on new properties.

jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

Never spend the money until you have it in hand!

Federal guidelines may prevent Lightfoot from using relief money to pay down city debt

Interim rules list several things the federal aid can’t be used for — a list that includes “funding debt services.” That could derail a plan to use just over half of the $1.9 billion Chicago will receive to retire $465 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing and cancel plans to borrow $500 million more.

The city plans to reopen the downtown area June 3, 2020.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to use just over half of the federal aid the city will receive to pay down debt, but federal rules may stand in her way.
File photo

The U.S. Treasury Department may have thrown a monkey wrench into Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to use more than half of the $1.9 billion avalanche of federal relief funds on the way to Chicago to retire $465 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing and cancel plans to borrow $500 million more.

Interim rules released this week identify several “ineligible uses” for the $350 billion being doled out to state and local governments.

They include tax cuts, pension funds, “funding debt services, legal settlements or judgments and deposits to rainy day funds or financial reserves.”

General infrastructure spending is not covered either, with the exception of “water, sewer and broadband investments or above allocated under the revenue loss provision.”

“While the program offers broad flexibility to recipients to address local conditions, these restrictions will help ensure that funds are used to augment existing activities and pressing needs,” the guidelines state.

Lightfoot balanced her 2021 budget by refinancing $1.7 billion in general obligation and sales tax securitization bonds and claiming $949 million in savings in the first two years.

That approach extended the debt for eight years and returned Chicago to the bad borrowing days former Mayor Rahm Emanuel had ended.

The mayor’s financial team had told aldermen that more than half of the $1.9 billion avalanche of federal relief funds on the way to Chicago would be gobbled up by retiring $965 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing used to eliminate the pandemic-induced shortfall.

Lightfoot reiterated that promise to investors last week — amid heavy resistance from a City Council hell bent on using that money to address poverty, homelessness, mental health and economic disinvestment.

“First and foremost, we need to make sure that we address our structural deficit. We had to do some one-timers to close the budget gap for 2021 because we didn’t know whether there would actually be any other monies available. I’m looking to eliminate some of those one-timers and use some of the [relief] money to do that,” she said.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s budget office was asked how the mayor can still deliver on her promise to investors without violating Treasury Department guidelines.

“The Treasury guidance represents interim rules that have been put out for comment, and the City plans to seek clarification on the guidance as well as provide comment,” a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management wrote in a terse emailed statement that hinted at an appeal.

If there is an appeal, the mayor is expected to argue the massive scoop-and-toss borrowing would not have been necessary if not for a precipitous drop in revenue directly tied to the stay-at-home shutdown triggered by the coronavirus.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall has urged the mayor to eliminate scoop-and-toss and move toward eliminating Chicago’s structural deficit.

After reading the federal guidelines, Msall said it was “fortunate that the city has not yet issued the scoop-and-toss borrowing they had planned as a back-up” for the 2021 budget.

“It remains to be seen whether the interim Treasury guidance will completely prohibit the city from re-paying short-term borrowing it did in December,” Msall wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.

“But, the fact remains that city leaders must use this reprieve wisely and come up with a long-term plan for how they will address their structural deficit and other budget stressors that will remain after the [stimulus] funding is gone.”

If the city’s expected appeal is not successful, Lightfoot would at least face less resistance from aldermen with their own wish lists, who must approve stimulus spending.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Lightfoot’s former City Council floor leader, has introduced an ordinance calling for using $30 million of the new federal money to bankroll a guaranteed income pilot.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the Black Caucus, has argued it would be a “slap in the face” to African Americans who have “suffered great atrocities over time in this country” to talk about giving 5,000 of Chicago’s neediest families guaranteed monthly payments when aldermen have just begun talking about paying reparations to Chicagoans whose ancestors were enslaved.

“It’s tantamount to being pushed to the back of the line again. African Americans — not only in the city, but in this state and in this country — have always been at the back of the line when it came time for resources,” Ervin told the Sun-Times last month.

“Resources for the descendants of slaves should take front-and-center if we’re gonna start giving money out to anybody. When you look at the atrocities that our community has endured over the years, it’s just appropriate that some level of understanding and remuneration be granted for such. This is not a new idea. This is not foreign.”

Chicago on the road to financial solvency, Lightfoot assures investors

The mayor also noted that more than half of the $1.9 billion in federal aid will be used to retire $965 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing — though she faces resistance from City Council members who call it a Wall Street bailout.

The Chicago skyline, viewed from the inbound Eisenhower Expressway.
The Chicago skyline, viewed from the inbound Eisenhower Expressway.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tried Thursday to convince investors she has put Chicago on the road to financial solvency, in hopes of minimizing borrowing costs when $1.4 billion in general obligation bonds are sold to bankroll her capital plan.

During the annual investors conference — held virtually for the first time after a year-long hiatus — the mayor didn’t shy away from the many challenges Chicago faces. She couldn’t. Investors asked her directly about their biggest concerns during a question-and-answer session moderated by Jennie Huang Bennett, the city’s chief financial officer.

Lightfoot argued she has had “a lot of successes” financially.

“If we hadn’t seen the COVID-19 meltdown in our revenue that directly affected our budget, we’d be talking about a budget surplus right now, just on the basis of the measures that we put in place before,” she said.

“No mayor likes to raise property taxes. But we did some incredibly smart things by having increases tied to” the consumer price index, Lightfoot added. “Nobody wanted to do that. But we were able to get together the majority we needed to bite that bullet so that we are having consistent revenue streams and not having these great swings.”

Even with that $94 million property tax increase and annual increases going forward, Lightfoot balanced her 2021 budget by refinancing $1.7 billion in general obligation and sales tax securitization bonds and claiming $949 million of the savings in the first two years.

That approach extended the debt for eight years and returned Chicago to the bad borrowing days former Mayor Rahm Emanuel had ended.

The mayor’s financial team has told aldermen that more than half of the $1.9 billion avalanche of federal COVID-19 relief funds headed to Chicago would be gobbled up by retiring all $965 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing used to eliminate the pandemic-induced shortfall.

On Thursday, Lightfoot and Bennett reiterated that promise to investors — even though there will be heavy resistance from a City Council dead-set against what some aldermen call a Wall Street bailout.

“We had to do some one-timers to close the budget gap for 2021 because we didn’t know whether there would actually be any other monies available. I’m looking to eliminate some of those one-timers and use some of the [relief] money to do that,” she said.

As for spending the rest of those relief funds, Lightfoot added: “People have to feel these monies. They have to feel like we have heard them. That we understand their pain. And that we’re doing things to relieve that pain so they can also recover. If individuals and families don’t recover in a holistic way, our recovery will be muted at best.”

There were three elephants in the virtual room.

One was Chicago’s chronically under-funded pensions.

That problem, the mayor argued, can be solved only in Springfield. But instead, the General Assembly made things infinitely worse by passing a “disastrous” firefighters pension sweetener “under the cover of darkness in the lame-duck session,” Lightfoot said.

“Putting more stress on a broken system — pension funds that are severely under-funded — in the midst of an economic crisis makes no sense to me whatsoever,” she added.

“At some point, it’s my hope that everybody involved will get serious and come to the table. We know what the solutions are. What we’ve been lacking is the political will.”

The second elephant in the virtual room was what Lightfoot called the “unprecedented uptick in violence.” Once again, Lightfoot blamed the pandemic.

“When you think about public safety, it’s not just a police or law enforcement [problem]. It’s a lot of social services. A lot of community groups on the ground. Every single part of that infrastructure — from the courts to the prosecutors — have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and closures and we’re still coming out of that,” she said.

The flip-side of that coin is police reform and accountability.

A former Police Board president who co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability, Lightfoot argued the path to progress on those fronts is “long,” and measured “in months or years” — not days.

But she argued the Chicago Police Department has made great strides — in training, in community service (done weekly by every front-line officer) and in a homicides clearance rate once “in the teens” but now above 60%.

Elephant No. 3 was the nonstop tension between City Hall and the Chicago Teachers Union that triggered a teachers strike and nearly prompted a second walkout over reopening Chicago Public Schools.

Lightfoot was asked about that in the context of Chicago’s population losses.

“One of the first questions that young families have about whether or not they’re gonna stay in the city is, what’s the quality of the public school system? Can I walk to my neighborhood school? What is that gonna look like?” the mayor said.

“And, no question, this conflict is not helpful, to say the least.”

Assessor Kaegi addresses “Structural Racism” and other issues at the City Club

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi addressed the City Club today. Below is a text version of his presentation. 
Thanks for starting us off here, Ed. Before I begin my comments, I wanted to take stock of where we all are today. This last weekend, I was at a memorial for a friend and mentor … done virtually, of course, and I reflected on what we’ve all been through. Not even one year has elapsed from Illinois’ first death from COVID-19. In the country we now have more than half a million dead from the virus. We have millions suffering from lingering effects, and millions of survivors who could not be together to comfort each other in mourning. Us survivors are coping but taking real hits—jobs lost and businesses shut, life disrupted, families living with complete exhaustion and ever-present risk.We need to express gratitude to those around us for stepping in to stop the virus, and for helping us to carry through. The County Board, President Preckwinkle, Mayor Lightfoot and her team, and so many others have delivered in this time of crisis.I wanted to thank you at the City Club, and you members out there, for sustaining this irreplaceable organization. I’m looking forward to the day when we’re back in person.Joining us today are many members of the Assessor’s Office, all of whom have performed admirably during an incredibly difficult time. The work they did in 2019 made it possible for everything we did in early 2020, just before the virus hit.
We launched online exemptions for the first time, expanded the types of appeals you could file online, and created a new call center system. With the relaunch of our website and the implementation of auto renewals of senior exemptions, we were able to handle the immense challenge of pivoting from in-person public service to remote public service just as the full effects of COVID-19 caused all of us to rethink how we worked and lived. As citizens of this County, you should know that the staff of the assessor’s office delivered under extreme circumstances, carrying on through a deadly pandemic and coping with epic economic disruption that touched directly on our work; all while switching our systems midstream. They kept the public and each other safe, showing patience and flexibility even as all of us felt pushed to our limits, and beyond. This year, our staff implemented yet another way to make things easier on vulnerable populations, by processing exemption auto-renewals for low income seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans with disabilities. This was made possible through a bill passed by the general assembly to make life a little easier for the hundreds of thousands of people most vulnerable due to COVID-19.  As we faced down this pandemic, I’m proud of what we accomplished together and am grateful for the work they do, as dedicated public servants.I want to let everyone watching today know that we even as we accomplished all this, we were frugal. Every day, we try to show the public that we know the value of a dollar. Here’s how we’remaking good use of our resources.2
In Cook County, we serve more property owners per full-time employee than any of the other large jurisdictions, which you can see here. And we do it by spending less per parcel than any of those places.How did we do it? Not only with great effort, flexibility, and patience, but also the indispensable backing of Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, our County commissioners, and the Bureau of Technology. They funded and supported our technological transformation and our efforts to reinforce our staff with training, new talent, and data. Each day, we’re in the trenches together modernizing the office for our County’s betterment.
Today, & our equity frame
So, today we’ll talk about–A study of commercial assessments by the gold standard for our field–the results of our suburban reassessments–the impact of COVID-19–the upcoming reassessment of Chicago–closing the data gap that helps create some assessment disparities.But first,
I want to talk about why it’s so important to get this work right and what it means for theaverage property owner’s bottom line. Because that underlies each of these topics. In our property tax system, assessments are interconnected. Each property owner needs to care about how everyone is assessed, not just their own assessment, because otherwise that property owner may be picking up the tab for others through a higher tax rate. Because in Illinois, our property tax rates float, they’re not fixed. The rate you pay depends on how big the base of assessed value is. The bigger the base, the lower the rate.Let me show you here what happens if part of the system is off-kilter.3
Let’s say we’ve done our job correctly and perfectly mirrored market values in our assessments.In our example here, commercial buildings’ assessed value is a million, and homeowners’ values sum to a million. So the base is two million.Folks who own property here have a school district, town, and other local services funded by property taxes. Incidentally roughly two thirds of property taxes are for schools. In our state, this thing called a levy is the amount of money that will be collected for these bodies, regardless of the size of the assessment base over on the left.So what does this mean for a homeowner? Let’s say she owns a bungalow with $20k AV. She’sthen 1% of the base, $20k divided by $2m. If she’s 1% of the base, she has to pay 1% of the levy. So her property tax bill is $4000.But let’s say the system, perhaps through inadequate data and valuation practices, undershoots market values by 50% and only assessescommercial at 50% of where the market is. In that case, our base is now $1.5m, with homeowners now representing 2/3 of the base. Now remember, the levy over on the right does not change. In our state, levies are lump sums that must be collected regardless of how assessments are set; assessments just determine how the levy is distributed after the tax rate isset. 4
So in this case, our homeowner is still assessed just as she was before, at $20k. She’s still assessed accurately. But look what happens to her tax bill on the right. It’s gone up over $1000 to $5320. Why? Her home is now a bigger piece of the base. She’s picking up part of the tab for properties that are underassessed.This is why she has a stake in making sure the whole system is assessed fairly, because everyone’s assessment is interconnected, because we’re all dividing up the cost of government amongst ourselves based on the assessments.This is why our office is focused on accuracy, on eliminating assessment disparities, because accuracy in assessments has huge implications for equity. In each of the areas that follow, the changes we have made have focused on eliminating assessment inaccuracies and disparities that can make our system inequitable.
IAAO
These disparities are why I asked the International Association of Assessing Officers—which is the gold standard in this field–to examine the assessments in place as we found them and compare them to the prices paid in commercial property transactions in the County in 2018. They compared those commercial property sale prices with the system’s estimated market values. These market values were determined by the prior administration and the Cook County Board of Review, prior to our administration taking office. As I noted in the beginning, we need to consider residential and commercial assessments together. The Civic Consulting Alliance found problems in residential assessments in Chicago in5
2018, but they did find that in aggregate residential values were on target: homes were not, on average, over- or under-assessed. But the IAAO report found significant underassessment of most commercial properties. Overall, they found commercial properties were about 40% underassessed County-wide in 2018, and 50% underassessed in Chicago.The pattern was troubling in DEEPER ways, too. Larger commercial properties were assessed at lower rates than small businesses and the values showed a lack of uniformity in many cases, creating the potential for unfair tax disparities. Outlying neighborhood commercial properties also tended to be assessed at a higher rate. In short, some people were getting a break while others were making up the difference. As we saw in the earlier example, assessment disparities can mean that the annual financial impact of this underassessment can be really big for those who are assessed accurately.
Process improvements at the outset
This is why it was so important to focus on reducing distortions and eliminating these disparities as we reassessed the suburbs over the last two years. The first thing we did was to commit ourselves to transparency, by showing our work. No more black box valuations, which were a source of endless complaints in the commercial community. We also committed ourselves to eliminating sources of bias, favoritism, and conflicts of interest. This meant doing things like making commercial appeals anonymous to our analysts, implementing an ethics code forbidding campaign contributions from practitioners who practice before us, and requiring evidence to be based on professional standards. For example, an appraisal actually had to meet the federal standards that a bank would require. 6
For those of you who don’t know, there’s a small subset of the appraisal industry whose entire purpose is to argue that a double bacon cheeseburger is in fact a salad. If only it worked like that, all of us quarantined at home might be feeling a little slimmer. Unprofessional practices by appraisal mills hurt equity if they are taken at face value, because they can throw commercial assessments off kilter, injuring everyone else, not to mention bringing disrepute on honest appraisers who respect industry standards. Having high-quality standards and using better data are key to making assessments more accurate and fair.
Suburban reassessments
Now, I’m about to show you the results from the South Suburban reassessment, but I can’t help but plug our report of the North Suburban Reassessment. It provides lots of new data and graphics, where you can see how we took action to realign the system, and also calculate for yourselves the impact of changes to assessments on properties in your community.[show some of the beautiful graphics]The report has great data and charts showing you our sources, and the reasonable basis for thedata we use, which no one disputes in its accuracy or authoritativeness. Actually, we showed sources that institutional investors can look up for themselves and track each day. Here’s one example.7
 And I gotta say, it has some striking cover art contributed by world famous Chicago-area artist Chris Ware, with scenes and buildings from throughout the county.So, here are the results from our reassessment of the South Suburbs. Several things to note here.1.
 
Note that the base grew overall.
2.
 
The residential base grew, even after COVID-19 adjustments.
3.
 
The commercial base grew more, also after COVID-19 adjustments.
4.
 
With better modeling techniques, we dramatically improved regressivity in residentialassessments.
5.
 
 All these trends were a basic continuation of what we observed in the north suburbs, where we realigned the base with more accurate commercial assessments than the ones we inherited.
6. We’ll soon have a report on the south suburbs like we did for the north.
COVID-19 section
8
 As I mentioned, our assessments in the south suburbs took into account the devastating effects of COVID-19. And we’re proud that they did.We were just starting to send out assessments in February 2020 when the effects of COVID-19 began to be seen here in Illinois. [fan chart showing impacts of COVID-19 on different classes]The individual sales transactions we prefer to use are reported with a lag of several months, but real estate capital markets told the story in real time. By the end of February, publicly traded portfolios of real estate were already taking hits, led by hotels and retail. By the end of March, serious distress was clear. Bond markets were showing distress with hotel and retail mortgages going on watch lists. Some commercial mortgage delinquency rates blew out from low single digits into the teens. The equity capital markets were saying hotel values were down as much as 40%, with retail down 30%, single-family homes down, while the market was also saying some kinds of real estate were up, like data centers. Then, the Governor and the President declared natural disasters, meaning that property owners could get relief for COVID-19 impacts during the appeals process.9
Now as you look at this chart, think back to the discussions we opened with today. Imagine having assessments reflecting a by now-out-of-date state of the world. Some kinds of real estate devastated, others going up. But then add an additional element of distortion by imagining that only a portion of the assessments would be appealed. In that case, only some properties would reflect the market impacts of COVID-19, but the majority of assessments would likely be frozen in place with pre-COVID-19 assessments. If we did nothing and stood pat, we would not only NOT reflect current market conditions, but we’d also create a notably more inequitable assessment roll, with some carrying the burden for others.The more equitable thing to do was recalculate assessments with these effects included. It wouldn’t be perfect because no matter when we made our valuation decision, conditions would continue to change afterwards. But at least the overall assessment roll would have the initial effects of COVID-19 reflected, saving property owners some of the costs and troubles of appealing during a pandemic, while creating a more equitable and up-to-date assessment roll. We published our first valuation document last May, noting all the data sources and methods used in our residential assessments, then a follow-up on our commercial assessments. You canfind those reports, along with community specific maps of our residential adjustments on our website..10
Chicago
Now, 2021 is one of our biggest challenges yet, more challenging in some ways even than 2020.First, we’re reassessing the City of Chicago, which represents fifty-two percent of the parcels in Cook County. So we’re doing more than half of our triennial reassessment work this year. We’reconfident we’ll meet this challenge as we have improved the quality of our residential modeling and are regularly meeting the IAAO standards for high-quality assessments. We’re also launching the opening phase of replacing our office’s whole software and hardware system of record. This is the beginning of our County’s deployment of the integrated property tax system from Tyler Technologies. It’s a long-delayed upgrade that moves us away from the aging mainframe platform used to power four offices involved in the Cook County property tax system. This upgrade will get us off the kind of green screen technology used in the movie
WarGames
and onto a modern platform used by assessor’s offices nationwide. It’ll also mean the data and methodology will be more transparent and easier to access than ever.We expect the trends that we observed in our reassessment of the suburbs to continue in Chicago. That is, we expect the residential and commercial base to grow, to close the disparity gaps observed in commercial reassessments, and to reduce the regressivity of residential assessments. All of these things will address the disparities and inequity identified by the IAAO.11
RPIE
With the world turned upside by COVID-19, we’re trying to make sure we have an accurate picture of local conditions facing commercial properties. We’re meeting with commercial property owners, chambers of commerce, and others. We’re seeking to independently verify neighborhood commercial data. And we’re encouraging folks to use our real property income and expense tool, known as RPIE. Every commercial parcel owner in Chicago this year received RPIE instructions in the mail. This tool helps us close the data gap that may have contributed to the disparities where smaller commercial properties tended to be assessed more highly than larger ones, especially in the neighborhoods where third party data is scarce. It lets owners tell us what real, on the ground conditions are like.Now, you would think a tool that gets assessments right at the beginning of the process would be welcomed by most people. It saves property owners money on the appeal process and certainly gets their assessment at a more accurate initial position. But it seems not everyone shares our enthusiasm for better data. We’ve seen more than a few letters and statements like this one from property tax firms, who instructed their clients not to fill it out.Why would these groups be opposed to our efforts to get better data? Why wouldn’t they want us to create fairer assessments from the beginning instead of forcing taxpayers to go through a costly and time-consuming appeals process? Yes, there will always be a need for appeals to 12

City of Chicago passes tax increase and ties future increases to the CPI

City Council approves $12.8B pandemic budget

The closest vote — 29 to 21 — was on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to raise property taxes by $94 million, followed by annual increases tied to the consumer price index.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers the 2021 budget address during a virtual Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Wednesday morning, Oct. 21, 2020.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday won approval for her 2021 city budget during a virtual City Council meeting.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

After a string of uncharacteristic concessions, Mayor Lori Lightfoot muscled her $12.8 billion “pandemic” budget through the City Council on Tuesday by a margin more narrow than Chicago has seen in decades.

The closest vote — 28 to 22 — was on the mayor’s plan to raise property taxes by $94 million, followed by annual increases tied to the consumer price index. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) called it the “forever tax.” It will cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 an extra $56.

Joining Beale in voting “No” were Aldermen Daniel LaSpata (1st); Brian Hopkins (2nd); Patrick Daley Thompson (11th); Marty Quinn (13th); Edward Burke (14th); Raymond Lopez (15th); Stephanie Coleman (16th); and Matt O’Shea (19th).

Also dissenting were Jeanette Taylor (20th); Silvana Tabares (23rd); Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th); Roberto Maldonado (26th); Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd); Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th); Samantha Nugent (39th); Anthony Napolitano (41st); Brendan Reilly (42nd); Tom Tunney (44th); James Gardiner (45th); Matt Martin (47th) and Debra Silverstein (50th).

The vote on the budget itself was 29 to 21, a roll call made famous during the Council Wars power struggle that saw 29 mostly-white aldermen thwart then-Mayor Harold Washington’s every move. Aldermen love to have their cake and eat it too by voting for the budget but not for the revenue to pay for it.

This year, Lightfoot tried to call a halt to that political game. She warned members of the Black Caucus, “Don’t ask me for s—t for the next three years” when it comes to choosing projects for her five-year, $3.7 billion capital plan if they don’t support the property tax increase.

Shortly before 2 p.m., after nearly two hours of debate, Lightfoot thanked aldermen who voted for and against her budget.

“I hope what Chicagoans who were able to watch the City Council debate also understand is that you witnessed democracy in action. It is often messy, confounding and, at times, frustrating. But for me, it remains the best system of government in the world,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot thanked her supporters for “understanding the need to act now — not kick the can down the road and do the right thing. Not just for you. Not just for your ward, but for your city.”

As the debate began shortly before 11 a.m., Budget Committee Chairman Pat Dowell (3rd) defended a budget that was a bitter pill for aldermen and their constituents to swallow.

“No one wakes up in the morning wanting to raise taxes. … But unprecedented times call for tough decisions to be made,” Dowell told her colleagues.

“Faced with cutting essential workers or essential services versus a modest tax increase, the choice is clear. … This has been far from an ideal year. Don’t let a far-from-ideal budget obscure the fact that this budget is the best of our very limited options.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) praised Lightfoot for the concessions she made and the flexibility she showed.

“I even recall speaking to you when you were at the hospital with your mother. … Each time someone pushed you hard, you went back to the drawing board and came up with something,” Burnett said.

Lightfoot responded to the compliment in a voice breaking with emotion.

“Thank you, Walter. You made me cry. You touched my heart,” the mayor said.

Sigcho-Lopez was the first to explain his opposition to a budget that, he claimed, was “rooted in regressive taxation” that would “hurt Black and Brown families.”

“I’ve seen what happens when our elected leaders use intimidation against the vulnerable instead of using their office to uplift the people they represent. But this continues to be the approach we see from the mayor,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

“I don’t cast my vote against this budget to spite you, mayor. I cast my vote against this budget in spite of your threats and in support of the people we were elected to serve.”

Martin said there were “multiple, preferable and realistic proposals that could have simultaneously avoided layoffs as well as a significant property tax increase” he fears “will displace some of our neighbors” as the pandemic continues to stress household budgets.

“I have very deep reservations about locking in our reliance on property taxes in such a dramatic way without first having a more public conversation regarding realistic plans for closing Chicago’s structural deficit. Nor do I support committing Chicagoans to an annual CPI increase without making substantial, concurrent progress on progressive revenue options that can offset the burden our residents will continue to bear,” Martin said.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) called Lightfoot’s decision to eliminate 614 police vacancies an inadequate response to a “summer of historic protests for justice and against police brutality and disinvestment in our communities.”

“We’re voting on a budget that continues to prioritize policing with a $1.7 billion budget over all other services to support our communities. A budget that continues throwing money at an institution that has demonstrated itself to be resistant to reform and that has cost us more than $1 billion in the last decade in misconduct lawsuits and servicing debt to pay those lawsuits,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.

With the “pandemic raging” and the “economic situation worsening,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said more mental health issues and emergencies will surely follow.

“We got $2 million to split between two crisis response pilots. That’s not enough by any stretch of the imagination to even complete a planning phase for either pilot,” she said.

The most impassioned speech was delivered by Taylor, who told Lightfoot, “Don’t give me crumbs and tell me it’s cake.”

Taylor said she is “baffled by how we are OK” with a budget that raises fines, fees, gasoline and property taxes at a time of unprecedented economic hardship.

“Fifth-six dollars [in higher property taxes] to an elder in my ward? That’s her medicine for the month. Fifth-six dollars is food for a family in my ward per month. We’re talking about where the median income is $25,000. And this is what we do to folks in a global pandemic?” Taylor said.

“We take crumbs all the time when we could have had it all. … We could have gotten so much more. … Progressive is not taking away 600 already vacant positions in the police when 87% of the city said defund the police. Why can’t we tax the rich? We continue … taxing everybody else but the people who can actually afford it. … Our constituents — especially on the South and West sides — are looking at us like we’re crazy. They already can’t afford to live in this city.”

Lopez, one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics, told his colleagues, “This is not just a fiscal vote, my friends. It’s a moral vote.” Chicago’s “humanity is at stake.”

“Where is our empathy? … 2020 has kicked our residents in the teeth, robbed and spat on them. Why is this City Council trying to justify harming them further for the next four decades?” Lopez said.

Last year, Lightfoot avoided a property tax increase — widely viewed as the third rail of Chicago politics — by balancing her first budget with one-time revenues.

This year’s version is no different—even with increased taxes on property, gasoline and computer leases as well as a controversial decision to start issuing $35 speed camera tickets to motorists caught driving between 6 and 9 mph over the speed limit.

To eliminate a combined $2 billion shortfall for this year and next, the mayor plans to refinance $1.7 billion in general obligation and sales tax securitization bonds and claim $949 million in savings in the first two years.

That will extend the debt for eight years and return Chicago to the days of “scoop-and-toss” borrowing that former Mayor Rahm Emanuel ended, although not nearly fast enough for Wall Street rating agencies.

A $304 million tax increment financing surplus will create a $76 million windfall for the city. The budget also includes: $59 million by “sweeping aging accounts”; a $30 million raid on the city’s $900 million in reserves; and $54 million in savings by transferring the cost of pensions and crossing guards from the city to Chicago Public Schools.

For a mayor who famously claimed, “I don’t buy votes,” Lightfoot sure did a lot of wheeling and dealing to line up the 26 votes needed to approve the budget.

She canceled 350 layoffs in favor of borrowing against future revenues from the sale of recreational and medical marijuana and ordered five unpaid furlough days, only for those non-union employees with six-figure salaries.

She sweetened the pot for violence prevention by $10 million and set aside $2 million to test two alternate response pilot programs for emergency calls related to mental health emergencies.

She nixed plans to link eliminating carve-outs in the city’s Welcoming City Ordinance to the budget and pledged to honor that campaign promise by introducing a separate ordinance next month.

She recognized June 19 as a “day of observance” to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States but stopped short of declaring it a paid city holiday.

And she used her five-year, $3.7 billion capital plan to increase the value of the treasured aldermanic menu program from $1.32 million for each of the 50 wards to $1.8 billion.

Even after all of those concessions, there was still considerable resistance, even from the mayor’s closest City Council allies.

It will be interesting to watch whether Lightfoot creates a website, as she did last year, to shame those who dared to vote against the budget.

It will be equally worth watching whether she follows through on her threat to use the capital plan to punish those aldermen who tried to have it both ways by supporting the budget but opposing the revenue package.

Lightfoot savored her first budget victory by smoking a cigar, sipping a Scotch and welcoming her mother home for Thanksgiving.

The extended family dinner isn’t possible this year in the middle of Chicago’s second surge of coronavirus cases. But the cigar and Scotch are likely to be repeated after a hard-fought victory that won’t get any easier.

Next year, the city is facing a $430.6 million spike in pension payments.

And only $100 million has been set aside to cover more than three years of retroactive pay raises for Chicago Police officers even though the price tag for that back pay is certain to be triple or even quadruple that amount.

“Are we gonna borrow for that and kick that down the road? Ladies and gentlemen, we are becoming the next Detroit,” Beale said.

Lightfoot agreed Chicago has “many challenges and many roads ahead” that she and aldermen “need to walk down the path together … This is not the end. This is the start of a series of things that we must get done on behalf of the people in 2021 and beyond.”

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