Chicago budget address: Lightfoot proposes hundreds of millions of dollars for public safety

Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered Chicago's 2022 budget proposal at City Hall on Monday.

The mayor's task was substantially easier than it would've been without over a billion dollars in coronavirus relief funds the city is receiving from the federal government.

It's allowing Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council to postpone some very difficult decisions that loom in the years ahead.

"While we suffered revenue loss in 2021, the flip side is that we've seen better than expected revenue of approximately $210 million in 2021," Lightfoot said.


About 60% of the city's budget shortfall was due to the increasing cost of pensions for government employees.

In fact, by the time Lightfoot's first term is completed, city taxpayers will have shelled out $1 billion extra dollars a year than they were when Rahm Emanuel was mayor.

"In 2022, with the budget we're proposing, we will climb our pension ramp, which means that for the first time in city history all four pension funds will be paid on an actuarially determined basis. And Madame Treasurer, you know this is huge," Lightfoot said.

Shootings and killings in Chicago remain at the highest level in decades, and Mayor Lightfoot also proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending on public safety.

Some of it would go to police, with tens of millions going to programs for violence intervention, mental health treatment and ex-offenders.

Mayor Lightfoot is using federal coronavirus relief funds to postpone difficult decisions the city would otherwise face, while spending $200 million more on police, $135 million on violence prevention and $86 million more on mental health treatment.

"And we propose to do this without any new taxes, no reduction in city services and no layoffs," Lightfoot said during her budget address.

Not entirely true, notes the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, objecting to a nearly $80 million increase in the real estate property tax levy.

"The current proposal calls for the second consecutive increase in the property tax levy in two years, all at a time when businesses are seeing their property tax assessments skyrocket without any clear reason why," the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

Lightfoot seeks a rebirth of Chicago’s number one employer — tourism.

"We already have a number of new, first-of-their-kind events scheduled for Chicago in 2022 that will absolutely help boost occupancy in hotels, seats in restaurants and bars, and have a ripple effect across our economy," Lightfoot said.

Looking to line up City Council votes for her budget proposal, the mayor's offering each member $100,000 for what she called "micro-grants" to hand out.

Public hearings on the mayor's budget begin in a few days.

In addition, there’s one big looming question: what happens after that nearly $2 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds have all been spent?