Lightfoot policy change could quadruple Chicago property tax hike in 2023

Lightfoot policy change could quadruple Chicago property tax hike in 2023

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to tie property taxes to inflation in 2020 is coming back to bite taxpayers.

Chicago property taxes bumped up 164% in 20 years, but 2023 will take the trend to new heights.

Chicago’s property tax increase will nearly quadruple from $22.9 million in 2022 to $85.5 million in 2023 because of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to tie property taxes to inflation, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

Lightfoot chose to peg property taxes to inflation in 2020, saying it made practical sense for taxpayers and would impose discipline on her office. Illinoisans are now feeling the effects of the highest inflation in 40 years, so the practical sense and discipline are no longer apparent.

Shortly after the Chicago Tribune released their analysis of how Lightfoot’s policy would quadruple property taxes, she said she doesn’t regret her decision but didn’t expect current inflation levels.

“Nobody could’ve anticipated what the consequences of inflation that we’re seeing here this year, but we’ve started a discussion internally with our finance team, we’ll present a plan as part of our budget to make sure there isn’t a significant burden on taxes for our taxpayers,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot’s “pandemic budget” was in the works amid massive federal stimulus. Even for those who don’t own their home, rising property taxes are passed on to renters.

Some council members, such as 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith, opposed the policy when Lightfoot first proporsed it, concerned about costs falling on taxpayers.

“Everyone knows these are unprecedented times. [But] I made a pledge to my constituents not to vote for property tax increases. I made good on that last year. We really have to keep our city’s tax base within the city’s limits,” Smith said in October 2020.

Inflation is hovering around 8%. Lightfoot’s plan caps inflation-based tax hikes at 5%, which would still quadruple the city’s property tax increase should she choose to collect the full 5%.

Pensions are the main driver behind property tax bills in Chicago and across Illinois. The city’s $1.71 billion property tax levy in 2022 is only a fraction of the $218.8 billion in pension debt.

Adding more potential pain for Chicago property taxpayers is Amendment 1, which analysis shows would guarantee $2,100 in additional property taxes for the average Illinoisan. The change to the state constitution is on the Nov. 8 ballot and would grant public worker unions unprecedented power no other state allows to make demands that taxpayers would be required to fulfill.

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