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2.5% Property Tax Hike Will Help City 'Avert A Train Wreck,' Rahm Says

"We are here to fix what people left behind because they passed the buck,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday, defending the looming property tax hike.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CHICAGO — City officials must hike most homeowners' property taxes by 2.5 percent to "avert a train wreck," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

"We are here to fix what people left behind because they passed the buck,” Emanuel said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he plans to sign a new school-funding formula Thursday that would give the Chicago Public Schools about $450 million more than last year — that would allow the Chicago Board of Education — whose members are appointed by Emanuel — to generate $125 million by hiking property taxes about 2.5 percent for the average homeowner.

Emanuel said the decision to raise taxes is not one he made "lightly or easily."

However, Emanuel said city officials had no choice after state and local officials put off making payments into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund for decades.

"We are all being asked to pay for other people’s refusal to step up in the past," Emanuel said. "That's what created this problem. And we've now averted that crisis and that train wreck.”

Emanuel said political pressure prompted officials to "kick the can down the road" and "pass the buck," leaving him to "clean" up the situation.

That tax hike could account for about half of the $269 million that CPS needs from the city to make ends meet.

In addition, Emanuel said the tax hike would protect the gains made by students in recent years.

In all, the new school-funding formula approved by the Illinois House and Senate this week would give the Chicago Public Schools about $450 million more than last year in state funds.

The looming property tax hike comes two years after the City Council increased property taxes by $588 million over the next four years, the largest jump in the city's history, to foot the bill for police and fire pensions.

The measure also includes $75 million for a tuition tax credit program that would offer families scholarships to send their children to private or parochial schools — or to pay the cost to send their sons or daughters to a public school outside their home school district, officials said. Opponents of that effort criticized it as a voucherlike program that could "decimate public schools."

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