Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, close friend and former aide to President Barack Obama, has proposed the second major tax hike for Chicago residents since he took office, this one to the tune of $41 million.
“First of all, on my budget, we held the line on property taxes. Second, this is $28 for the whole year. Third, it protects the investments of early childhood education, class size, longer school day and parental choice by having made sure that we have magnet and other type of choices in the system,” said Emanuel, in explaining his tax increase proposal.
Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, in his earlier press release announcing the $41 million property tax increase, used Emanuel’s same talking points, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
The higher taxes were announced late Wednesday as media was focused on the City Council’s approval of marijuana tickets. The council approved an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana possession to a ticket infraction, not unlike a parking ticket.
The $41 million in new city taxes are supposed to be used by Chicago Public Schools to plug a budget shortfall as high as $700 million, including $114 million in lost federal and state funds.
Last year, Emanuel gave CPS the green light to raise property taxes by $150 million, the maximum amount allowed by law. Then Emanuel aclaimed that his handpicked school team had already made $400 million in bureaucratic cuts and the extra $150 million was needed to “protect the classroom.”
As a candidate, Emanuel argued Chicago taxpayers were “tired of being nickel-and-dimed to death.” As Mayor, he has hit struggling homeowners with huge tax hikes both years he has been in office.
The $150 million property tax increase, a record amount, cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 an additional $84 per year.
“I said I was gonna protect the classroom. We not only protected the classroom. We’ve expanded educational choices and opportunities for parents [who] rely on the school system while other school systems are cutting back,” said Emanuel after signing off on his first tax increase.
Recently, teachers unions, fueled by anger against a mayor who stripped them of a 4-percent pay raise and tried to muscle through a longer school day, called for a teachers strike.
It is not clear whether Emanuel’s tax increases will be followed by a teachers’ strike but up to 90 percent of the city's teachers have signed on to strike.