Proposed ordinance requires monthly updates on city revenue collections

Aldermen were blindsided when COVID-19 blew a $2 billion hole in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. A proposal to provide more timely information in the future was approved Monday by the Finance Committee, which also OK’d using tax increment financing funds for six CPS projects.

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Chicago City Hall

Chicago City Hall.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Chicago aldermen had no warning before learning the coronavirus pandemic had blown a $2 billion hole in the city’s 2021 and 2022 budgets.

They wouldn’t be blindsided again, under an ordinance championed by downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

The City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday endorsed Reilly’s ordinance, which requires the city’s Department of Finance and the Office of Budget and Management to keep monthly tabs on city revenue collections.

Both departments would be required under the ordinance to publish monthly reports on their websites detailing “total collections for each revenue category” from the previous month.

The reports must include the difference between anticipated corporate fund revenues and actual collections and show how monthly collections in each tax and fee category compare to the same month the year before.

Reilly has long favored empowering aldermen with financial information.

He was a driving force behind creating the City Council’s Office of Financial Analysis. He helped strengthen Chicago’s privatization ordinance to prevent a repeat of the parking meter fiasco.

On Monday, Reilly acknowledged the substitute ordinance approved Monday “reflects some changes” requested by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. After “rather lengthy discussions, we arrived at this,” he said.

“My original ordinance would have been, I think, an undue burden on the department given all of their other audit responsibilities,” Reilly said.

“But the key information that members of this body need access to on a more regular basis, and in as close to real-time as possible — this will provide for that. … Getting this more regular information on the city’s various revenue streams will be helpful to us. Rather than waiting for quarterly reports, we will get this information on a more regular basis.”

TIF funding OK’d for CPS schools

Also during Monday’s meeting, the Finance Committee authorized six capital improvement projects for Chicago Public Schools, bankrolled by over $13 million from surrounding tax-increment-financing districts.

The largest of the six projects — $9.2 million — is at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. The money will be used to build an “enclosed connection to link the main Kenwood Academy campus” to the adjacent former elementary school and replace “existing air handling units in the gym with new heating, including rooftop units.”

Local Ald. Sophia King (4th) noted the 7th and 8th grade programs are selective enrollment, but the high school is a neighborhood school primarily serving Bronzeville.

“They continue to have great success academically. We just want the outside of the school to look like what’s going on on the inside,” King said.

“More importantly, this pedway will provide much more security and continuity between the two buildings.”

The second-largest TIF subsidy — $2.5 million — will help fund a 22,000-square-foot “competition-level gymnasium” at Wendell Phillips Academy, 244 E. Pershing Rd.

The existing gym, constructed in the early 1900s, can accommodate only 100 people.

The $14.9 million project will also get a $7.4 million capital contribution from CPS and $5 million from the state.

Local Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the goal is to “get more students” into a neighborhood high school that, a CPS official said, has reported “100% college acceptance for the fourth straight year.”

“It needs to be brought into the 21st century. With this addition, we think we will be able to do that. And it’s a reward also for the students there who have just, year after year, kept Phillips High School improving both academically and athletically,” Dowell said.

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