• Erin Hegarty
    NOV 16, 2023

    City Council approves Johnson’s $16.6B budget

    The City Council approved Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first budget as mayor on Wednesday. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    Mayor Brandon Johnson’s $16.6 billion budget, his first as mayor, won easy approval from the City Council Wednesday despite concerns from some alderpeople that the $150 million dedicated to addressing the migrant crisis relies too heavily on funding from the state and federal government that is not guaranteed. 

    The 2024 budget does not raise property taxes and in addition to the migrant funding, the spending plan re-establishes the city’s Department of Environment with a $1.8 billion budget, includes plans to begin reopening city mental health clinics and expand mental health services and civilianizes 398 positions in the Chicago Police Department. Johnson’s budget also increases funding for the Office of Labor Standards and creates an Office for Re-Entry and a council Subcommittee on Reparations.  

    The passage for the budget means the city is beginning the work “of truly investing in our people and all of our communities.”  

    The budget “makes critical investments and adhere to fiscal responsibility and does so without overburdening working families while still meeting our obligations to retirees who’ve dedicated their lives and provided incredible service to our city,” Johnson said. “We did everything I said I would do. I kept my word.”  

    While the budget was approved by more than 80 percent of the City Council, Johnson said Budget Director Anette Guzman might not characterize it as an “easy” budget. “In some instances, particularly when Black leadership is on display, as hard as it is sometimes, we do make it look easy.” 

    Alderpeople voted 41-9 to approve the spending portion of Johnson’s 2024 budget. The ordinance sets how the city will allocate and spend the $16.6 billion.  

    The following alderpeople voted “no” on the spending plan: Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. David Moore (17), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and Ald. Jim Gardiner (45).  

    The City Council approved Johnson’s revenue ordinance, which sets city fines and fees with a 40-9 vote. Every alderperson who voted “no” on the budget allocation ordinance also voted “no” on the revenue ordinance with the addition of Ald. Felix Cardona (31) . The ordinance that sets the tax levy for 2024 at $1,773,557,000 was approved 40-9 with a vote identical to the revenue ordinance vote.  

    Ald. Bill Conway (34) voted "yes" on the budget and commended the mayor for avoiding a property tax hike, including a modest increase for law enforcement and expanding mental health resources. But Conway said he has "grave concerns" about taking $100 million from the LaSalle Street tax-increment financing (TIF) district and the $150 million "blank check for the migrant crisis."  

    Johnson’s budget includes $150 million to support migrants next year, though alderpeople during budget hearings last month were skeptical that would be enough to get the city through the year.     

    Related: Alderpeople open first day of budget hearings questioning whether $150M in migrant funding is enough    

    Ald. Anthony Beale (9) voted “no” on the budget and also brought up issues he has with the $150 million dedicated toward migrant funding as he predicts it will only get the city through the first four months of 2024.   

    "This budget says that we're going to hope and pray that the federal government steps up to the plate,” Beale said.   

    Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26) acknowledged that everyone has concerns about the migrant issue "and whether or not this budget allocation is going to get us there."   

    But Fuentes took a different view from Beale saying that neither alderpeople nor Johnson’s administration will sit and pray for more funding but will demand the federal delegation invest in migrant funding and that Gov. JB Pritzker has “skin in the game.”  

    Johnson and all 50 members of the City Council will work on the issue “because the one thing we will always be is a sanctuary city,” Fuentes said. “Migrant, immigrant families alike have built this city.”  

    Ald. Andre Vasquez (40), who chairs the City Council Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the $150 million shows “a commitment to finding solutions rather than ignoring the problem.” 

    The 2024 spending plan increases the police department’s budget by $91 million to $1.998 billion. Despite 1,500 current vacancies in the police department, the number of positions in the department will remain flat at 14,137.  

    Related: CPD gives deeper look at 398 new civilian positions as alderpeople continue yearslong crusade for more helicopters     

    Johnson's budget adds 398 civilian positions to the Chicago Police Department, which according to city documents creates 440 promotional opportunities.     

    "This is the first budget that actually puts civilianization [of the Chicago Police Department] in the budget and not just talks about it,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28) said on Wednesday. “These are the things we’ve been asking for collectively, but this is the first time that they’ve been delivered upon."  

    Ald. Pat Dowell (3), who chairs the finance committee, applauded Johnson’s budget which she said “builds upon many other historic achievements already underway through the leadership” of the mayor.   

    Dowell listed some of those achievements as the Bring Chicago Home measure that passed last week and means voters in March will be asked whether the city should hike the transfer tax for properties that sell for over $1 million and use the revenue to curb homelessness. She also pointed to the measure that eliminates the subminimum wage for tipped workers.   

    “I’m not a real strong progressive type, but I think these have been huge wins for the city,” Dowell said, adding the new measures “will have a giant, positive impact on the very lives of our residents.”  

    An amendment made to the budget gives each alderperson enough funding to hire a fourth staffer for their ward offices. Alderpeople have pushed for years to add another staffer to their offices as they say calls from constituents have increased and the number of issues their offices are expected to handle has multiplied.  

    Most alderpeople commended funding for an additional ward office staffer including Ald. Ruth Cruz (30) who said her office "definitely needs that extra staffer" to ensure they are bringing the services that residents want to see.  

    Ald. Walter Burnett (27), who serves as vice mayor, explained his support for the budget before voting “yes.”  

    The budget approved Wednesday includes the creation of an Office of Re-entry to help Chicagoans returning home from being incarcerated.   

    “When you help those folks to sustain themselves and get themselves back on track, you help the whole society,” Burnett said. “It ends up saving us money.”  

    Burnett repeatedly referred to the budget as “holistic” and one that goes “straight to the heart" of addressing issues the city is facing. 

    Ald. David Moore (17), who voted “no” on the budget said he was disappointed that the budget didn’t include the automatic property tax increase tied to CPI.   

    "We are going to be coming back here asking for a larger increase," Moore said. "Sometimes you have to do what's fiscally responsible." 

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