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Update: Skyway Sale-Funded Property Tax Rebate Passes City Council

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jul 20, 2016 2:13PM

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Rahm Emanuel has addressed the nagging question of how exactly the city would finance the property-tax rebate program his administration had proposed to help counterbalance the record tax hike. It turns out the money received from the recent sale of the Chicago Skyway would be used to fund the reimbursements, according to an announcement made on Tuesday.

The city of Chicago netted a $20 million transfer tax payment earlier this year when the elevated roadway was purchased by three of Canada's largest pension plans. Emanuel’s plan would cost $21 million if all eligible homeowners participate, according to the administration.

The City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday approved Emanuel’s Skyway-funded proposal, although the final version reflected some minor modifications to Emanuel’s original vision. Now, an “extraordinary hardship” measure would allow further rebates beyond the maximum for homeowners who can prove they are in danger of losing their homes. (Without the “hardship” additions, homeowners can receive up to $200 in property-tax rebates, but the final total depends on individual household income and the size of tax increase.) Seniors will also receive an additional $50 in rebate funds.

The plan thus far does not include rebates for renters or rental properties. Council members Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st Ward) and Deborah Mell (33rd Ward) joined activists on Monday, calling for a plan that would offer incentives to landlords who pledge not to hike rents. Ramirez-Rosa has expressed interest in possibly using funds from a reported $45 million windfall—the result of a new investment plan by the City Treasurer—to finance his proposal.

Emanuel also took the opportunity on Tuesday to defend the controversial tax hike—$588 million in total, with $318 million due this year—saying it was a necessary step to resolving the city's unfunded-pensions crisis.

"The city, for decades, had not done their job, and wasn't honest with the public, to the point it became a major financial burden, and a major financial uncertainty," he said, according to the Tribune. "That uncertainty is now removed. Now, I did raise property taxes. I own that. But to right decades worth of wrongs.”

The ordinance will be in front of the full City Council on Wednesday morning for a vote.

Update 11:45 a.m.:
The City Council on Wednesday approved a $20 million property-tax rebate program. Homeowners with a $75,000 household income or less will be eligible for roughly $150, depending on the size of their tax increase.