CHICAGO - Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed a $16.4 billion City Hall budget Monday.
Among the items missing: a property tax increase of more than $40 million that, until a few days ago, the mayor said was necessary.
Dropping the tax increase won praise from the Budget Watchdog Civic Federation of Chicago, funded by some of the city’s largest taxpayers.
"There's a lot of good news in this budget," declared Laurence Msall, longtime president of the Civic Federation. "There's not a big, general property tax increase. There's a significant new investment in policing, almost a $100 million."
Nonetheless, city homeowners will see a significant property tax increase since the Lightfoot’s appointees at the Board of Education approved a nearly quarter-billion dollar tax hike.
Candidates seeking to unseat the mayor were critical, including budget expert Paul Vallas.
"The city has all but squandered almost $6 billion in both city and school district COVID money. We're gonna be facing a billion-dollar deficit in the post-election budget. So, really, this is purely a political budget," said Vallas.
Preparing to face the voters in a few months, the mayor focused on her budget's good news, promising more for public safety in a city where killings have risen 35% since 2019, when she took office.
"We also propose over a hundred million dollars for additional public safety investments," Lightfoot said.
Among other things, the mayor promised new technology to assist police officers, as well as new vehicles and a new helicopter.
The chopper could help to track offenders such as carjackers, since Chicago police are largely prohibited from pursuing them at ground level.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago on Monday, Oct 25, 2021. Lightfoot championed the cash assistance program. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
The mayor promised large investments in neighborhoods "south of Roosevelt Road and west of Ashland."
She said that, since poverty is a "driver of violent crime," such investments would make Chicago safer.
As for the shrunken ranks of Chicago police officers, down by nearly 2,000 since the mayor was sworn in, Lightfoot said, "The current recruiting trends are on track to yield the largest year of academy recruits and largest in recent memory."
Vallas accused Lightfoot of "squandering" nearly $6 billion in federal pandemic relief funds sent to city hall and Chicago's public schools.
The City Council announced public hearings on the proposed 2023 budget would begin 9 a.m. Thursday.