This week, City Council considered two important ordinances that would have a significant impact on City finances, and on the lives of all Chicago residents. These two ordinances were financing the CTA Red Line Extension and repealing the CPI property tax increase. I voted against both the CTA Red Line extension proposal and repealing the CPI property tax increase, and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you why.
I’m sure many of you are well aware of the long history of the City’s attempt to extend the CTA Red Line south of 95th St. This effort was started all the way back in the 1960’s, and through numerous stops and starts, a proposal to move forward was finally ready for City Council consideration in late 2022. Let me be clear, I support extending the Red Line south of 95th St. This infrastructure improvement is good for the City of Chicago, good for its residents, and will connect long underinvested and underserved communities in the far south side to the City’s vast transportation network.

However, I voted against this proposal because the financing mechanism to fund the extension is insufficient. The ordinance proposes to create a CTA Red Line Transit TIF District that would cover communities along the existing Red Line, including significant portions of the South Loop and Bronzeville communities. And it is these areas that would be solely responsible for the City’s nearly $1 billion financial contribution to the project. Five wards – the 3rd, 4th, 11th, 25th and 42nd Wards – should not be the only wards responsible for paying for an infrastructure improvement that would have citywide, regional and statewide benefits, and would consist of construction projects located solely outside of these wards.

All governments – the City, State, and County – should contribute to the project. And all Chicago residents should share equally in the financing of this citywide improvement. Placing this burden on the backs of my residents is not something I could support.

I want to clarify one important point on the TIF issue as well. The creation of the CTA Red Line Extension Transit TIF will not increase taxes for the residents within the new TIF district. What it will do is simply divert existing taxes from the areas within the TIF’s northern boundary and send them to the southern portion of the new TIF district to fund the planned infrastructure upgrades. No new taxes will be imposed on any resident due to the creation of this TIF district.

On the subject of taxes, I voted against the ordinance that would repeal the CPI property tax increase that is considered during every City of Chicago budget. This does not mean the City will institute a property tax increase every year based on the CPI. The City did not increase property taxes by the CPI this year. The ordinance that is on the books today requires the City Council to consider a property tax increase tied to CPI during the annual budget negotiations. This is prudent fiscal policy. If the City’s financial conditions warrant a small property tax increase, then this existing policy provides an avenue for the City Council to pursue that option. If it does not, then we don’t.
Annual consideration also prevents the City from hitting taxpayers with huge, one-time property tax increases like the City has done in the past. These large increases are a burden for homeowners who may not be able to afford a multi-hundred dollar tax increase. Potentially increasing property taxes by a very small amount, if needed, is much more palatable and easy to plan for than large one-off increases.

As Alderman of the 3rd Ward, it is my responsibility to both protect my resident’s finances, and ensure the City of Chicago is acting in a way that is fiscally responsible. My votes on these two ordinances accomplishes that responsibility.

If you have any questions about these ordinances, or if there is anything else my office can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime at 773-373-9273 or at [email protected]

Sincerely,

Pat Dowell
Alderman, 3rd Ward