• Erin Hegarty
    JUN 26, 2023

    Timeline for city’s 2024 budget takes shape as leaders push to incorporate various priorities ‘on the front end’ instead of last-minute tweaks

    City Budget Director Annette Guzman and Ald. Jason Ervin (28) during a committee meeting last week. [City of Chicago livestream]

    While the annual rigorous city departmental budget hearings are still about four months away, Mayor Brandon Johnson and his budget leaders last week gave a look into how the new administration plans to handle crafting the city’s 2024 spending plan. 

    Budget leaders over the course of the past two weeks have said they hope to incorporate input from residents and alderpersons ahead of Johnson’s budget address to avoid multiple last-minute amendments to next year’s spending plan. 

    Johnson issued an executive order June 16 detailing how and when he plans to release his first budget forecast address — an event that traditionally includes an address from the mayor the month before the budget proposal is introduced.  

    While much about Johnson’s budget forecast plans are identical to those former Mayor Lori Lightfoot detailed in her own executive order on the topic, Johnson is pushing the deadline to present the forecast from the end of August to the end of September. 

    Lightfoot in the past used the budget forecast address to preview some major components of next year’s budget proposal, including whether a property tax would be included or not.  

    It is also during the budget forecast address city leaders usually unveil the size of the budget gap the city is facing heading into the next year. The 2023 gap was about $128 million. 

    Related: Chicago facing $127.9M budget gap for 2023 as throes of budget season loom  

    Johnson has vowed not to raise property taxes, but that means the city will learn in the coming months how he plans to contend with an automatic increase tied to inflation Lightfoot got approved during her term. 

    Separately during a meeting of the Committee on Budget and Government Operations last week, the city’s new Budget Director Annette Guzman detailed to alderpersons the proposed schedule for rolling out the budget publicly, gathering input from the public and members of the City Council, and voting on the final budget proposal. 

    Despite a schedule that sets the budget forecast later than it had been under Lightfoot’s administration, the plan “still gets us to passing a budget before Thanksgiving,” Guzman told alderpersons. 

    The schedule, which is still subject to change, sets Sept. 13 as the date for the budget forecast to be released. Prior to the forecast, budget officials are planning to hold meetings with city departments regarding their budgets starting in mid-July.  

    Budget officials are also planning to hold a “Budget 101” meeting for new alderpersons in mid-July. While the title of the session sounds “elementary,” Guzman guaranteed it will not be. 

    “We want to make sure that any new alder, and frankly any alder that would love to come, understands the complexity of the city budget, the ins and outs, and is able to just understand the process from beginning to end,” Guzman said during a budget committee meeting last week. 

    Community engagement roundtable sessions regarding the budget are scheduled for July 18, 20 and 22. The community engagement sessions were intentionally scheduled earlier in the year than in past years.  

    “In the same way that we strive to engage with alders throughout this process, we want to make sure that we're also engaging the community during the process and not at the end of the process,” Guzman said. 

    Following the Sept. 13 release of the budget forecast, the preliminary schedule plans to hold forecast briefings with alderpersons Oct. 10. 

    Ald. Jason Ervin (28), who chairs the budget committee, said last week that budget officials will work with alderpersons and caucuses “to get input from everybody's perspective as well.” 

    “To the extent we can, we want to get as much in the process before we get to the amendment phase, because when we start getting to amendments, we’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to take out and we're gonna add in,” Ervin said. “We want to try to get all of this stuff in on the front end as much as possible...as this process unfolds and not wait until after the budget is presented to try to go figure it out.” 

    The later budget forecast date this year is necessary due to “all that’s going on in the economy, but also the time that we need for our departments to provide us data to make a successful and more accurate forecast.” 

    Johnson plans to introduce his budget proposal the next day, Oct. 11, during a special meeting of the City Council, with departmental budget briefing scheduled to begin the following Monday, Oct. 16. 

    The 10 days of departmental budget hearings would be shorter than Lightfoot’s hearings schedule last year, which lasted for 12 days. 

    Guzman said the 10-day plan for departmental hearing is “ambitious,” but the schedule does leave “some room for cushion if we need to call any departments back or we need more time with departments before each of the alders.” 

    The week between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 is set as the budget amendment phase, followed by meetings of the council’s finance and budget committees Nov. 6-7 and a final vote on the 2024 budget set for Nov. 15 — nearly two weeks before Thanksgiving. 

    The City Council approved Chicago’s 2023 budget on Nov. 7 last year. The 2022 budget was approved Oct. 26, 2021 and the 2021 budget was approved on Nov. 24, 2020. 

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