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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Talks One-On-One About Budget Pain, Taxes, Fees, And COVID-19 Concerns

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Plugging the city's $1.2 billion budget hole is now in the hands of Chicago aldermen, and there are tough questions about it – including the prospect of new taxes aimed at you that will hit people who live and visit the city.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov sat down with Mayor Lori Lightfoot Monday afternoon to talk taxes, fees, and increasing COVID-19 concerns.

The mayor said the city is in an unprecedented fiscal predicament because of COVID-19. Cutting the way back into the black is not possible.

So Kozlov asked her how residents are supposed to absorb this fiscal hit, and asked if this current COVID-19 surge might throw the city and her plans into another freefall.

"You don't have a lot of easy choices," Mayor Lightfoot said.

Essentially, the mayor said when it comes to raising revenue to plug a $1 billion-plus budget hole. Raising property taxes – a $56 hike on a $250,000 home - is one way, with a subsequent annual increase tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Kozlov: "So are you concerned about the proverbial straw, where some people might say, 'I just can't do it anymore and I'm leaving the city?'"

Lightfoot: "Yeah, I mean, you're always concerned about that for any host of reasons. But the reality is, that in the absence this modest property tax increase, the flipside of that is that we significantly slash personnel, which means we significantly slash services."

Mayor Lightfoot is also proposing adding parking meters and giving speed camera tickets to drivers going 6 mph or more over the speed limit.

Kozlov: "Are you going to add speed cameras, number one?"

Lightfoot: "We're not looking to add actually more speed cameras, and the six miles or over actually was something that the City Council approved several years back, but it hasn't been enforced."

Kozlov: "So parking meters, how many more meters are we talking? Where are they going to go?"

Lightfoot: "Well, a lot of it depends upon whether or not the other measures that are in place. We're still looking at – we know a topline number that we want to reach, but we haven't decided specifically where those meters would go."

The mayor and Kozlov spoke at the same time Gov. JB Pritzker was reinstating COVID-19 restrictions for suburban Cook County, including banning indoor restaurant dining. The city has also seen restrictions reinstated recently – including a closure of indoor service for bars that do not serve food and a 10 p.m. nonessential business curfew – but indoor dining is currently still allowed.

Kozlov: "You're not like 24 hours away from, for instance, banning indoor dining again in the city?"

Lightfoot: "No, we would give a lot more notice if we were going to do something like that."

And what about the plan to send Chicago Public Schools pre-K and diverse learners back to the classrooms next month? The mayor seemed to leave the door open to possible changes in the current CPS plan.

"We're shooting for November 16, a week later (than the second quarter begins). And look, I can't tell you what's going to happen in the next three weeks."

The city property tax hike will be in addition to the ones levied by the Chicago Public Schools and the Park District. So it is not just $56 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home, but actually more than $100 a year for each homeowner in new taxes.

The mayor acknowledged that fact, but said this puts the city in line with other taxing bodies. But Lightfoot recognizes it will not be easy for taxpayers to absorb.

Meanwhile, budget hearings continue so how final plan or proposal for the budget actually looks.

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