COVID federal relief talks halt cuts Chicago budget options

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As news broke today that President Donald Trump had called off talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over another round of COVID-19 relief, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago is now on its own in solving its budget problem.

“We have to fix this ourselves, and we will fix it,” Lightfoot told reporters this afternoon. “The pain and the difficult decisions are going to have to be made. I don’t relish them at all. As we move toward our process and I meet on a regular basis with my financial team, every single meeting has been painful, every single one.”

Her budget announcement, set for Oct. 21, will lay out how she plans to fill a $1.2 billion budget gap amid a recession. She did not say today whether property tax increases would be considered in the revenue mix.

“We are looking at a range of options. None of them are good, all of them are painful, and I don’t want to negotiate them in the media because we haven’t made any final decisions," Lightfoot said. "We’re getting close. It’s tough. I’ve said to my colleagues in the City Council, this will be the toughest budget that they vote for, probably ever, given the size of the challenges and our desire not to discard the values that we all care about in making investments in people and in communities."

Today, City Hall sources confirmed Lightfoot’s finance team—Budget Director Susie Park and Chief Financial Officer Jennie Bennett—have set a $200 million target for personnel cuts for next year. That represents 6 percent of the $3.1 billion in personnel costs the city logged for its 36,586 employees last year. It represents a mix of pay, benefits, workers’ compensation and pension allocation.

Personnel cuts would require buy-in from the roughly 40 unions that represent 90 percent of city employees. 

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said in a statement today that while they will work with the city to identify efficiencies, public workers “have sacrificed their own health and safety to keep this city moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. . . .We must protect our workers and protect our services.”

AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall says the union “has not been engaged in any discussions concerning furloughs or layoffs.” The CFL is the umbrella organization for all the unions in Chicago. AFSCME represents about 3,500 city workers, including employees at libraries and in the water and public health departments.

In a statement, Park said "all potential solutions must be considered including personnel actions. While we continue to engage with our partners in organized labor, no final decisions have been made on the mix of potential personnel actions.”

That $200 million is only a target, and only a fraction of what the city needs to fill the gap.

“Delay is not possible,” the mayor said. “Our moment of reckoning is right now, and we have an obligation to the residents of this city to do our jobs, and that’s precisely what we’re going to do.”

via Crain’s Chicago Business https://ift.tt/1mywUHL

October 7, 2020 at 10:21AM

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