Aldermen Demand Answers on Mayor’s Plan to Close CPS Budget Gap

After several attempted fixes including court challenges and pleas to state lawmakers fell through, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being pressed for answers on how the city plans to close an estimated $600 million funding shortfall. 

On Tuesday, several Chicago aldermen, joined by the “Free the Funds Coalition,” spoke out about the funding issues, and they expressed concerns about what kind of funding and staffing cuts could be required to close a rapidly expanding hole in the school system’s budget.

“We cannot afford more cuts,” 31st Ward Alderman Milly Santiago said at the rally. “Now we have furlough days, we had heard about a shorter school year. What else are we going to need?”  

The public event comes after Mayor Emanuel cancelled a briefing on the issue, and the potential funding fixes being floated are stark. The city could loan CPS the money via TIF Funds, delay a $700 million pension payment that is due in June, or it could layoff non-teaching personnel.

“So much of the CPS’ funding is dependent on the state, and so when the state doesn’t live up to that responsibility, replacing that funding is a difficult thing,” City of Chicago CFO Carole Brown said.

One potential fix being proposed by groups is to reinstate the corporate head tax, which was phased out by Emanuel’s administration in 2012. The tax, which applied to companies with 50 or more employees, would reportedly raise $106 million, according to estimates.

Regardless of what the solution ends up being, there is one thing that most of those people searching for a fix can agree on: relying on the state is not something the city can afford to do.

“They haven’t gotten anything done in years,” 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said. “What makes us think that now, a month before schools may have to close early, that now they’ll find a solution?” 

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