Property tax hikes, school layoffs possible to fix budget shortf - FOX 32 News Chicago

Property tax hikes, school layoffs possible to fix budget shortfall

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

After Monday's meeting with top Democrats failed to end the General Assembly's deadlock over Illinois's worsening financial crisis, Governor Quinn turned to a top Republican Tuesday. As Quinn and House GOP leader Tom Cross dined at a West Side steak house, the dire consequences of Springfield's stalemate were felt here in Chicago.

Mayor Emanuel may raise property taxes. The possible tax increase would come as the Board of Education faces having to triple the amount it pays into the Chicago Teachers pension fund -- an extra $416 million. There may also be more layoffs of school employees. The mayor warned, "It's gonna be very difficult."

"We're gonna have to continue to make the tough choices," Emanuel said. "We've done about $650 to $750 million worth of savings in administrative areas."

Maybe, but the budget shortfall facing the public schools may now exceed a billion dollars. It's, in part, because the General Assembly last month failed to approve a proposal to reduce the Board of Education's required pension fund payments, now to set to soar. As a result, local property taxes may also soon soar.

Chicago school officials have quietly asked legislators about removing the state's cap on property tax increases. The mayor said no final decision has been made, but seemed to suggest that his outspoken critics at the Chicago Teachers Union will play an important role.

"And I think we're gonna make the tough calls," the mayor said. "But I will say this: it's gonna require other people being partners in our efforts to find the type of savings that are necessary."

Other local government budgets are now being squeezed after last month's failure of public employee pension reform legislation. Still hoping to pass something, Governor Quinn made a quick getaway from a West Side restaurant where he dined for 90 minutes with Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross. He mocked Speaker Madigan for claiming he couldn't return the governor's calls last week because Madigan didn't have a cell phone.

"One of the things I did was I offered my cell phone for the governor to give the Speaker the next time he's looking for him," Cross said. "No, it's a little disappointing, because, as I've said from day one, the governor's trying to get this done and has been aggressive, I think, on pensions."

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