The Chicago Public Schools will raise city property taxes this year by $225 million, officials said Wednesday.
CPS’s share of property taxes will total $2.929 billion in 2018 — up 8.3 percent from 2017’s $2.704 billion. The difference will cost the average homeowner another $177 a year. More than half the increase to taxpayers — $154 million — will go to teacher pensions.
The increase — combined with last year’s $250 million tax increase — means that city taxpayers have ponied up about half a billion dollars just for schools since 2015, and $1.06 billion in total tax hikes.
Still, CPS still has to come up with $146 million more toward a $784 million pension-fund payment due next June, CPS finance official Walter Stock said at one of three public hearings held Tuesday. That’s despite winning more pension money from the state as part of a landmark school funding reform bill that recently passed.
When that law passed in August, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made no apologies for the $125 million in new taxes it would permit the appointed Board of Education to raise on its own, without involvement from the elected City Council.
The school board also will generate more money, as it has every year since 2011, by raising property taxes to the cap allowed under state law, and through a capital improvement tax. That accounts for the other $100 million of the $225 million increase.
A quiet provision in the new state law also required CPS to allocate more money to its privately managed charter schools. Late last week, when it revised its budget with updated figures from state funding reform, CPS pegged that number at $37 million more dollars.
District officials also said they won’t use “student-based budgeting” any longer for charters and instead will base charter funding on CPS’ “per capita tuition charge” of about $12,000 per student this year, budget figures show.
Parents of charter school students lined up to praise the school board for the extra funding. Myisha Shields, who put all five of her students in charter schools, said “CPS is taking a big step toward treating all public schools fairly.”
But what officials skimmed over at the public meeting is how charter schools now will be responsible for a greater share of costs. For example, instead of reimbursing the independently operated schools for the cost of their special education teachers and aides, charters will have to pay for those services out of their tuition funding. They’ll also be responsible for some teacher pension costs, too.
“The increased state and local revenue puts CPS on stronger financial ground and ensured stability in the classroom,” said Michael Sitkowski, another budget official, pointing to some $35 million in local funding that’ll remain in the CPS schools whose enrollment have fallen below summer projections.
But that’s hardly enough to provide a quality education with counselors and librarians in every school, said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis.
“Sadly, this proposed new budget falls short in every possible way,” she said.
Though the new state funding law sought to give schools equity, providing more money to the schools most in need, “we’re still stuck in the student-based model, which means the students who often need the most still don’t get what they deserve,” she said.
Contributing: Fran Spielman