CPS wants to use property taxes to fill $800 million hole

CPS-logo[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hicago Public School’s administration announced its proposed 2015 budget last Wednesday. 

 “The District continues to face dire fiscal concerns in the coming years, including a nearly $1 billion deficit driven in large part by skyrocketing pension costs,” said CPS CEO Barbra Byrd-Bennett, in a release. 

CPS’s pension obligation for the 2015 fiscal year is $634 million and the district has a total deficit of $876 million.

To cover this cost the district expects to collect about $650 million in property taxes over the 60-day period after the end of the 2015 fiscal year. This move would take away tax funds that would normally go into the 2016 budget. The remainder of the deficit would then be filled by “one-time reserves” leftover from the previous budget.  

Interestingly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has criticized former Mayor Richard M. Daley for doing this exact thing: using one-time revenues to plug a giant hole in the city’s budget and kick the financial consequences of not finding a permanent solution down the line a year or two.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who may run for mayor herself, has even said that plan is nothing more than a bid by Emanuel to win support for re-election. 

Lewis has met with election attorneys and is expected to make a final decision in August about whether she will run against Emanuel for mayor.

About $4.8 billion of the proposed $5.7 billion budget is expected to go towards the district’s schools while $466 million is allocated to capital spending. 

Other items in the 2015 budget include: 

Cutting $55 million from CPS’s central office spending,

Cutting a total of 20 central office jobs,

Setting aside $13 million to hire 84 more arts and 84 more physical education teachers,

Setting aside $70 million to cover CTU mandated teacher raises,

Setting aside $4.5 million for seven new campuses designed to get at-risk high school students to graduate, and

Expand the Safe Passage program by about $1 million, 3 percent more than in the 2014 budget.

The next public comment meeting on the proposed budget will be July 16 at 5 p.m. at Wilbur Wright College, Kennedy King College and Malcolm X College. The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed budget during its July 23 meeting. For more information, visit CPS’s website at www.cps.edu.

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