Property tax rebate program for Chicago homeowners turns into Rahm’s slush fund

Property tax rebate program for Chicago homeowners turns into Rahm’s slush fund

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is spending money promised for rebates on police body cameras, a legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants and other programs.

A program intended to provide property tax relief to Chicago homeowners has turned into a slush fund for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. What started as a mismanaged rebate program for the crushing 2015 property tax hike has turned into yet another source for Emanuel to take and spend from, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In the wake of the $543 million property tax hike levied in 2015, Emanuel and the City Council, agreed to provide $20 million in rebates for homeowners earning less than $75,000 a year. However, actually getting the rebate proved difficult. Applications were not accepted online, over telephone or even by mail. All applications for the rebate had to be done in person, according to the Chicago Tribune. And even before the Dec. 20, 2016 deadline had passed, Emanuel was already making commitments to use the funds from the allotted $20 million for other purposes.

Those purposes included: $1.3 million on a legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants, $2.8 million for police body cameras, $2 million to buy and renovate vacant properties and $1 million for cybersecurity training programs at Chicago’s community colleges, the Chicago Tribune reported.

City aldermen were displeased at the news, but not for the right reasons. Like Emanuel, the aldermen had their own pet projects they wanted to spend the rebate money on, from home repairs for senior citizens to giving rebates to homeowners who install security cameras, according to the Tribune.

This latest misuse of city funds should come as no surprise.

Emanuel’s tenure has been riddled with fiscal mismanagement. Under his watch, Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, signed a costly $9.5 billion contract with the Chicago Teachers Union in October 2016, and as a result, CPS has seen serial downgrades from credit agencies like Moody’s Investor’s Service and Standard and Poor’s. And on top of that, the contract did nothing to reform the major funding problems, instead trying to get the entire state of Illinois to bailout CPS.

Then, in order to bailout the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund, Rahm and the City Council rolled out a plan to raise taxes on water and sewer services by 29.5 percent. And as if all that weren’t enough, Emanuel, still desperate for revenue, issued new taxes on satellite TV, plastic bags and Airbnb, and increased fees for parking at O’Hare and Midway airports. Now, Emanuel has even raided a simple property tax rebate program. It’s just the latest example of how Emanuel has misspent city finances and once again, it’s Chicagoans who have had to pay the price.

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