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Chicago Board Of Education Approves Its $5.4 Billion Budget

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 24, 2016 8:37PM

Demonstrators in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters on Madison Street during the Chicago Teachers Union "day of action" on April 1, 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

The Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a $5.4 billion budget for the FY17 year for Chicago Public Schools.

The budget relies heavily on some big hopes and assumptions, including a contract proposal between the District and the Chicago Teachers Union that the union has already rejected, and $215 million from a pension reform package in Springfield. Additionally, the budget relies on a property tax hike, $1.5 billion in short-term borrowing, and $230 million in cuts.

“The budget we are presenting today does include a property tax levy to help fund teacher pensions, and we are very grateful to our Chicago taxpayers for shouldering this additional load, and for our leaders in Springfield for acknowledging that we must improve education funding for children living in poverty,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool toldreporters.

Emanuel’s appointed board however, received plenty of criticism for its up vote. On Tuesday the Civic Federation said it could not support the budget because “it effectively remains out-of-balance by relying on uncertain funding and one-time measures in order to close a $1.1 billion operating deficit.” According to its analysis, CPS has completely depleted its cash reserves, leaving no cushion to deal with additional financial calamities should they arise. Additionally, the Federation’s report says that increased long term borrowing, CPS’s ongoing structural deficit and other cash flow problems are all “major concerns.”

Teachers and other education advocates also criticized the budget and called for the passage of a city ordinance sponsored by 39 Aldermen which would release surplus TIF funds to alleviate the District’s fiscal woes. According to the ordinance, 2016 TIF projections from Cook County Clerk David Orr could exceed $461 million, and those funds not earmarked or otherwise designated for use should be directed to the schools.

“Rather than join the campaign for more revenue, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool chose to lay off 1,000 educators and school staff, a move that will have devastating impacts on classrooms, contrary to what CPS leaders have been saying for months,” read a press release sent by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council on behalf of several community groups. “The proposed CPS budget, which board members will be considering at Wednesday’s meeting, inexplicably includes a smaller amount of TIF surplus dollars than last year’s budget, even though total TIF revenues are up 24%.”