Chicago’s Financial Reckoning Day Has Arrived

Chicago readers of Survival And Prosperity were warned that the City of Chicago’s poor financial health would result in a sustained hunt for much more revenue (new and higher fees/fines/taxes) for the foreseeable future.

The warnings were constant, and issued over the last couple of years.

So the following headlines on the websites of the two major local papers should not have come as a surprise to the courageous Chicagoans who’ve continued to read this blog on a regular basis despite the steady barrage of depressing news coming out of the “Windy City” lately.

“Emanuel to seek $500 million property tax hike”
Chicago Sun-Times website, September 2, 2015

“Emanuel set to call for largest property tax hike in modern Chicago history”
Chicago Tribune website, September 3, 2015

By the looks of things, Chicago’s financial reckoning day has arrived.

Time to pay the taxman.

Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthhart reported on the Tribune website this morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to call for the largest property tax increase in modern Chicago history to raise enough money to make a major pension payment for police and firefighters next year, the mayor’s City Council floor leader and a City Hall source told the Chicago Tribune late Wednesday.

The mayor also plans to push a new garbage collection tax, a new per-ride fee on taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber and a new tax on electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman broke all this down brilliantly last night. The City Hall Reporter wrote:

Sources said the 2016 budget that Emanuel will present to the City Council on Sept. 22 will include a $450 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions the mayor once hoped to shore up with revenues from an elusive Chicago casino.

In addition, Emanuel will ask aldermen to adopt a separate levy of $50 million to bankroll school construction and pay off old projects…

Emanuel has offered to raise property taxes by an additional $170 million for the schools, but only if teachers accept the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut and the state reimburses CPS for “normal” pension costs…

Together, the increases for both the city and CPS have the potential to raise the annual property tax bill for the owner of a home valued at $250,000 by nearly $700.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Home valued at $250,000 by nearly $700.”

Holy crap. That’s some pretty serious coin.

PSA from Alderman Al Czervik, Chicago City Council
YouTube Video

Keep in mind this hit to Chicago property owners doesn’t account for that other recent property tax hike I wrote about on August 27:

There are so many new and increased fees, fines, and taxes being proposed and implemented around the Chicagoland area these days, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But here’s one Chicago tax hike that’s just been approved that’s making local headlines. Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school board on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget that relies heavily on borrowed money and the hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield, with the specter of disruptive cuts in January if that help fails to materialize.

The $5.7 billion spending plan contains another property tax hike — an estimated $19-a-year increase for the owner of a $250,000 home — as well as teacher and staff layoffs. The Chicago Board of Education also prepared to go to Wall Street to issue $1 billion in bonds and agreed to spend $475,000 so an accounting firm can monitor a cash flow problem so acute that Chicago Public Schools mulled skipping a massive teacher pension payment at the end of June…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So there it is. And if Chicagoans think this major tax increase is some sort of one-off, well, I know of a certain bridge for sale out east. Like I’ve been warning all along, emphasizing it as recent as August 21:

New/higher fees, fines, and taxes, coupled with reduced government services

I also added in that post:

Chicago readers of this blog- what are you planning to do about the crisis? Or, what are you already doing? Maybe you don’t think a crisis exists? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the “Comments” section of this post, as I’d really like to talk more about this going forward.

Not much of a response was received (save for Mihail- thanks buddy). Anyone care to chime in now? Vent a little perhaps? Keep it civil, of course.

One more thing. With the cat out of the bag concerning the property tax hike and renewed attention on Chicago’s fiscal issues, I wonder what the impact will be on Chicago’s housing market (which had some positive momentum) going forward?

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (


Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel set to call for largest property tax hike in modern Chicago history.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Sep. 2015. ( 3 Sep. 2015.

Spielman, Fran. “Emanuel to seek $500 million property tax hike.” Chicago Sun-Times. 2 Sep. 2015. ( 3 Sep. 2015.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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