The pandemic’s economic punch in the gut to Chicago has pushed the budget shortfall to at least $700 million, with the threat of another property tax hike back on the table.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot detailed the dire news, saying the coronavirus lockdown upended the budget and accounted for $175 million in lost revenue in March and April, the Chicago Tribune reported. City taxes collected from affected businesses plummeted, including in the retail, hotel and restaurant industries, according to the report.
The city reopened retail shops and restaurants last week, despite damage to numerous small businesses from looting and vandalism that broke out during the recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Lightfoot brought up the potential for the property tax hikes — along with layoffs to city employees — to help make up for the expected lost revenue to the city’s $11.6 billion overall budget, according to the report. But she added the moves would be a last resort.
“Our businesses have been suffering and many of our small businesses, unfortunately, have been forced to close,” she said, according to the Tribune. The 2021 budget shortfall could end up exceeding $1 billion, city officials said.
For the 2020 budget, the mayor plugged a $838 million budget deficit she inherited in part with a $65 million property tax increase. That included a tax of $15 million for new construction projects. Lightfoot’s original plan for a real estate transfer tax was scuttled. [Tribune] — Alexi Friedman