Emanuel defends proposed property-tax hike for schools

August 10, 2011

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(WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)
The Chicago mayor praises CPS officials for making ‘tough choices.’

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to take on City Hall’s budget gap without raising taxes. But he’s taking a different tack with red ink at the school district he controls.

Emanuel on Tuesday defended a $150 million property-tax hike proposed by Chicago Public Schools last week.

“We’ve got to make the tough choices,” Emanuel told reporters.

The mayor praised the school district for trying to balance the books without packing more kids into classrooms. “We’ve not only protected the classroom, we’ve expanded educational choices and opportunities for the parents that rely on the school system,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel pointed to new charter schools and additional funds for magnet schools, full-day kindergarten, a teacher-training academy and security cameras.

The schools budget also includes hundreds of millions of dollars of program cuts affecting students. The reductions range from staffing at “turnaround” high schools to a dual-language pilot program.

The district is also trimming its central office. “I have no tolerance for an overblown bureaucracy,” Emanuel said.

But some Chicago aldermen say school officials should cut more spending before turning to homeowners and renters.

CPS says the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about $84 more each year and that property-tax payers would face a separate levy for school construction.

Asked whether the city could do anything to shift school funding away from the property tax, Emanuel stuck to the theme of his news conference: economic development. He said he was trying to generate revenue by encouraging job creation.