Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is asking local councilmen to vote on a series of drastic tax increases that have left many residents in a debate over what the city should be prioritizing.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel has asked his aldermen to approve a property tax increase as a part of his “capital tax improvement” plan, which is intended to create a new source of revenue to reinvest into the city’s school district.
The Emanuel administration proposed the tax increase in an effort to raise the funds needed for new school construction projects throughout the city, as well as to eliminate some of the school district’s heavy debt payments.
The announcement of the “capital tax improvement” plan comes on the heels of other tax increases proposed by Emanuel just a few days earlier. These plans include both a property tax on homes as well as a garbage pickup fee.
Americans already pay about $140 billion a year in taxes, and several Chicago councilmen are strongly opposed to the tax hikes for a number of reasons.
City council members representing the South and West Sides of Chicago are more upset with the proposed garbage pickup fee than the property tax. Most homes in these areas are worth $250,000 or less, so the effect of an increased property tax would be minimal. However, the proposal would take $11 a month from each family in the area for garbage pickup, which is much more consequential for middle- to low-income residents.
In the affluent downtown neighborhoods of the North Side, an increased property tax would be substantial, based on the value of the homes, while an $11 garbage pickup fee is much easier to dismiss.
Emanuel intends to use the revenue from these tax hikes to make massive increases in police and firefighter pension payments, as well as to help meet the city’s tight annual budget.
South Side Alderman Roderick Sawyer says that he believes the property tax can be “evenly distributed,” and claims that “from talking to most of my colleagues, the consensus is that they’d rather live with a fair-sized property tax increase.”
Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly believes that people are being far too dismissive of his constituents’ ability to afford the steep property tax hike.
“A lot of people assume that downtown residents are multimillionaires who are taking baths in nickels and dimes, and that’s just not the case,” said Reilly.
“There’s certainly some very wealthy people who live downtown, but I’d argue there’s at least as many or more who made an investment here decades ago, have since retired and are now living on fixed income.”
As Emanuel struggles to find a balance in the opinions of his aldermen, his administration is hoping to have a vote on the tax hikes by the start of winter. If the state doesn’t come up with a solution in the next few months, the school district has said that layoffs will be forthcoming.