Property tax waiver OK’d for surviving spouses of cops, firefighters who die in line of duty
The permanent waiver would apply only to 20% to 25% of the bill — the part that covers the city property tax levy. Chicago Public Schools would be ‘held harmless,’ as would other agencies of local government.
Whenever a Chicago Police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty, there is talk about honoring their ultimate sacrifice and about standing by their families.
On Thursday, Chicago aldermen did more than just talk about it. They put the city’s money where its mouth is.
At the behest of Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), the City Council’s Finance Committee approved an ordinance that would forever waive city property taxes for the surviving husbands and wives of Chicago Police officers, firefighters and other first-responders killed in the line of duty.
The abatement would apply only to Chicago’s property tax levy, typically 20% to 25% of the overall tax bill. Chicago Public Schools would be “held harmless,” as would and other agencies of local government.
A 2012 state law authorized the first-responder property tax break, but only if local city councils authorized it.
The property tax waiver would remain in place “as long as the surviving spouse remains unmarried” and stays in the home where he or she lived with the first-responder.
Daley Thompson estimated that “eight of nine potential spouses would be eligible to apply” for a break that could be worth $1,000 or more each year to each family of a fallen first-responder.
“Hopefully, that number never rises. But, unfortunately in the line of business they’re in, it may go up from there,” Daley Thompson said.
Joe Ahern, CEO of the 100 Club of Chicago, talked about a few of the “fallen heroes” whose families “would be extraordinarily served and blessed by the passing of this ordinance. ... These men and women laid down their lives to protect our community. And oftentimes, the hero who is lost was the sole breadwinner for the household.”
Those who would qualify include the families of: slain CPD District Cmdr. Paul Bauer; police officers Mike Flynn, Eduardo Marmolejo, Conrad Gary and Samuel Jimenez; firefighters Corey Ankum and Daniel Capuano; and CFD Capt. Herbie Johnson.
The property tax break comes at a time when Mayor Lori Lightfoot is under heavy pressure to raise property taxes yet again—even after Rahm Emanuel more than doubled the city’s levy—to erase an $838 million shortfall.
But Daley Thompson argued the city can afford to give surviving spouses a permanent break. In fact, it’s the least the city can do to ease their burden, he said.
“Maybe it’s $10,000-a-year for us. The dollar amounts are not significant to the city budget. However, they can be a significant amount for the surviving spouses,” Daley Thompson said.
“Whatever mess we’re in, if you’re a surviving spouse, you’re in a helluva lot bigger mess. This will go a long way for them to help them with their bills and helping them as they move forward.”
• Also at Thursday’s meeting of the Finance Committee, aldermen revised the redevelopment agreement for the Marshfield Plaza shopping center at 117th in the Far South Side ward of embattled Ald. Carrie Austin (34th).
The changes pave the way for Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois to replace a shuttered Target store with a customer service and care center that would create roughly 500 new jobs.
Austin said South Side residents were “devastated” when Target closed its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park.
“When we did our shopping mall, there was no intent for any office sites there at all. All retail,” Austin said.
“With all of the stores that are now coming down from brick and mortar, we’re glad to have Blue Cross-Blue Shield to come so it can be a different incentive. Because even with that, the incentive also is to open up other retail food establishments that they’re bringing along with them.”
• The committee also authorized a $9.5 million tax increment financing (TIF) subsidy, a $2 million multi-family loan and $30 million in notes to bankroll a 134-unit complex on a Near North Side site where the CHA’s Cabrini Green public housing project once stood.
The patchwork quilt of assistance will help Holsten Real Estate Development complete the Parkside of Old Town development.
The fourth and final phase of the mixed-income development will include 102 rental units in a “combination of two three-story walk-ups” and a “seven-story, mid-rise building,” city planners said. Units will range from studios to four-bedrooms.