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It'll Cost A Lot More To Keep CPS Open Through The School Year Than We Thought

By Stephen Gossett in News on May 10, 2017 4:10PM

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has vowed to keep Chicago Public Schools open through the end of the school year—even if he's not been entirely clear on how—it may cost a lot more than previously noted to do that. A mayoral aide said on Tuesday that CPS will need $596 million to keep the doors open—more than four times the $129 million budget shortfall, according to reports.

The reason for the swollen price tag? The cash-strapped district is still waiting on more than $400 million in block grants from the state of Illinois. “We are hopeful that money will come in, we put forth ideas to get through the end of the year, we have to consider what if that money doesn’t come in,” said chief financial officer Carole Brown, according to WBEZ.

While Rahm and his aides remain mum on plans for a possible funding mechanism, aldermen have floated tapping the city's Tax Increment Funds. Ald. The city could have stashed away in excess of $700 million in available TIFs, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said on Tuesday, according to DNAinfo.

Ramirez-Rosa has also proposed bringing back the somewhat controversial "head tax." That tax, which Rahm and the City Council got rid of back in 2011, required companies with more than 50 workers to a pay a $4-per-employee tax each month. Given the nature of the CPS crisis—and profits of large corporations—wants to reinstate the "head tax" at the higher rate of $33-per-employee. Delayed payments to vendors and the teachers' pension fund are also reportedly options.

“If you’re Target, if you’re Wal-Mart, that $20,000 additional per year for every 50 employees is no sweat off your back, but it will generate the $106 million that our schools need to keep their doors open,” Ramirez-Rosa said, according to CBS.

Brown, the mayoral aide, said on Tuesday said that "everything is on the table," according to the Sun-Times. Even another tax increase is supposedly a possibility, but Brown said that wouldn't be a timely enough solution—and it would further deflect funding responsibility from the state level.

Bruce Rauner's office deflected back, saying in a statement that "CPS’ crisis is not due to the budget impasse, it’s due to decades of fiscal mismanagement. Any outstanding payments from the state lie with Comptroller Mendoza, and can be processed when her office chooses." Rauner in December vetoed a $215 million spending bill for CPS, claiming that state Congressional Democrats had not done enough to provide broader pension reforms. Since the veto, CPS has mandated furlough days for teachers and froze discretionary spending. A judge in April tossed out CPS's suit that charged the state with discriminatory funding practices.