CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Much deeper cuts will be needed to balance the CPS budget, unless it finds additional money. Some in the City Council are urging Mayor Emanuel to transfer so-called TIF funds to the schools.
The problem is most of those TIF dollars have already been committed to neighborhood projects. But one alderman is willing to part with some of that neighborhood money for the benefit of the schools.
The Board of Education's proposed cuts would cost Clemente High nearly $194,000 of the school's $5 million annual budget, perhaps causing layoffs. After working those numbers and the cuts at other schools nearby, Ald. Proco Joe Moreno reconsidered his support for a long-planned million-dollar baseball facility at Clemente. The school bears the name of a legendary Hall of Fame player and its teams have won repeated championships.
“It's a tough choice. But our schools are going nowhere, dollarwise, in Springfield. We need it,” said Ald. Moreno.
Alderman Moreno said his willingness to forgo that million-dollar baseball facility here has sparked a passionate debate in the neighborhood.
“I think they should spend the money on better teachers, instead of the baseball field,” said student Gloria Nieves.
Victor Fuentes, who said he once played in the outfield for Clemente, agreed.
“I think that's a good idea, because our teachers are the main thing we come to school for,” said Fuentes.
Many families in and around Clemente have roots in baseball-crazy countries of Latin America. They complain that the school's current field is too often a muddy mess. After fighting hard to use Tax Increment Financing money for an upgrade, they don't want it to disappear.
“It's a good idea to build a baseball field for the kids, to do something other than being in the streets,” said community resident Dino Garcia.
“I think it's a bad idea. I think it should go for the baseball field, as well,” said community resident Maria Leonardi.
“We'll delay the field, unfortunately, if it comes to that, to keep teachers in the classroom. And keep Clemente on the right track, off probation for the first time in 14 years last year,” Ald. Moreno said.
Moreno agrees with estimates that if every alderman were to cancel pending projects, perhaps $200 million could be transferred to Chicago's Public Schools, which is a huge sum but not even half the $480 million CPS says it needs.
Gov. Rauner is scheduled to deliver his proposed 2017 budget to the General Assembly one week from Wednesday, even though the state has not yet approved a budget for 2016.