Chicago Teachers Union president owes city $5,579 for utilities

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
December 7, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union president owes city $5,579 for utilities

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates has let $5,579 in Chicago water, sewer and trash bills pile up. She makes over $289,000 and demands the “wealthy” pay a greater share. So why doesn’t she pay her fair share to a city in financial turmoil?

Newly uncovered records show Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates was $5,100 behind on her water, sewer and garbage services before starting a payment plan in July 2023. She almost immediately defaulted on that plan – despite making more than $289,000 a year.

She owed $5,579 to the city as of Nov. 7, 2023.

Davis Gates’ debt is part of over $6.4 billion in unpaid fees, fines and other debts left uncollected since 1990, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis. City Comptroller Chasse Rehwinkel said collection efforts are focusing on debt less than five years old owed by those with the means but who are skirting responsibility.

“If somebody is using all the mechanisms they can think of to get around those fees, they’re hurting the residents of the city of Chicago,” Rehwinkel told the Sun-Times. “We’re making concerted efforts to make sure that number is lowered.”

But Davis Gates’ delinquent bills and default have simply been met with more bills.

Davis Gates’ tenure as CTU president has been filled with controversy, from taking a homestead exemption on an Indiana home she doesn’t live in to killing school choice for low-income kids while putting her own son in private school. CTU has also come under fire from its own members for potentially misappropriating members’ dues for politics.

This latest revelation adds to the mounting evidence of her hypocrisy. She spurns responsibility and accountability both in her role as CTU president and in her daily life, while pushing for “wealthy” taxpayers to pay their “fair share.”

At the same time, she has the ear of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former CTU employee whose campaign was bankrolled by CTU and its allies. Her influence over Chicago politics should concern Chicagoans.

Davis Gates started a payment plan for $5,100 in water, sewer and garbage bills in July 2023

The City of Chicago’s Department of Finance-Utility Billing allows residents to create payment plans for their utility bills. The website states, “To remain on the payment plan, you must remain current with installment payments and future utility bill charges. Payments must be made on time.”

Records obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute reveal Davis Gates set up a payment plan with a beginning balance of $5,156 on July 23, 2023. An initial payment of $144.69 was made.

Stacy Davis Gates utility bill payment plan summary

Davis Gates defaulted on the payment plan on Sept. 5, 2023

The Department of Finance-Utility Billing’s website also states, “Failure to remain current may result in a default of the payment plan.”

Davis Gates’ September billing indicates a default date of Sept. 5, 2023, on the payment plan, with a default amount of $4,865.36.


Stacy Davis Gates utility bill payment plan

Combined with the current charges, the total Davis Gates owed as of Sept. 8 was $5,342.77.

Davis Gates now owes nearly $5,600

The amount Davis Gates owes the city continues to build. Documents obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute reveal she owed $5,579 as of Nov. 7, 2023.

Stacy Davis Gates utility bill payment plan 2

Davis Gates could be as much as three years behind on her city bills

How long does it take to rack up $5,100 in city utility bills? It looks like more than three years.

The “current charges” – excluding the late penalty – on Davis Gates’ November billing was $139.34.

Stacy Davis Gates utility bill nonmetered account summary

At that rate, it would take 37 months to hit the $5,186 owed in July.

The total due as of the November billing was $5,578.65, more than the original balance when the payment plan was set up in July.

Chicago does not shut off water services for failing to pay

In July 2022, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting water shut-off for non-payment. It followed a 2019 moratorium on residential shut-offs implemented by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot to “protect Chicago residents’ fundamental right to water access.”

It raises the question of whether Davis Gates – whose own income tops $289,000 a year – is using an ordinance intended to benefit lower-income residents for her own personal gain.

And it underscores CTU members’ concerns about Davis Gates and other union leaders’ failure to properly handle union funds or provide required reporting to members. In fact, when a member questioned why the union has failed to provide its audits to members for at least four years, Davis Gates attacked the member in the comment section, claiming that asking for an audit mandated by CTU rules is a racist “dog whistle.”

Members upset with Davis Gates’ hypocrisy and lack of accountability should call for new leadership. Chicagoans concerned with her power within City Hall should ask Mayor Johnson to distance himself from her influence. Mayor Johnson should ask Davis Gates to pay her city bills.

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