CITY HALL — A City Council committee signed off on a $20 million rebate program Tuesday designed to give property-tax relief to "primarily lower-income homeowners."
The proposal submitted last week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel was pulled off the table at the beginning of Tuesday's Finance Committee, as Budget Director Alexandra Holt worked to iron out some final issues.
She said she arrived at "a mix of the proposals" put out previously by Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd), Joe Moreno (1st) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), while "at the same time trying to keep it simple and easy to administer." She granted it was aimed at "primarily lower-income homeowners."
"It's very similar to the ordinance I introduced," said Moreno, who qualified his praise by adding, "It's not as robust as I would have liked."
Ramirez-Rosa echoed that, saying, "This is a progressive property-tax program that maximizes relief," even as he added that he would continue to push for a relief program that addresses renters as well.
In the end, the final changes were minor, but significant to aldermen. According to Holt, the program will still grant an average $150 rebate to homeowners making $75,000 and under in household income, an estimated 155,000 households citywide.
"I guess some relief is better than none," said Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th).
On Tuesday, however, they added rebates as low as $25 to the poorest homeowners facing minimal but still vexing tax increases as a result of the city's record $589 million property-tax increase imposed last year, as well as an appeal program "in individual cases of extraordinary hardship," to be administered by Holt's office — a final reform sought by Ald. John Arena (45th).
According to Holt, the city will hire third-party agencies familiar with local homeowners to "make sure we've got full participation in this program," to get the word out and streamline the application process, expected to open around Oct. 1 and last 60 days. "Before the end of the year we'd be sending out checks," Holt added.
Diane Limas, of Communities United, likewise pushed for an additional program to provide relief to renters. "This will lead to the displacement of longtime residents," she said, calling it "inevitable" that higher property taxes would be passed on by landlords to renters, especially in the rapidly gentrifying Northwest Side.
Moreno and Ramirez-Rosa both said they'd pursue such a program, and Holt pledged to examine "what a rental program might look like."
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