Jack Lavin, President & CEO, Chicagoland Chamber: My name is Jack Lavin, President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and we represent over 1,000 diverse businesses from across the Chicagoland area. I would like to thank the Mayor, Chairwoman Dowell, and members of the City Council for the opportunity today to speak to you regarding the FY22 budget proposal. Our members are the job creators for Chicago, and we are the voice of business in Chicagoland. The top concerns that I hear from our businesses for economic recovery are public safety and skyrocketing property taxes.
So first, we commend the Mayor for introducing and crafting many of the new programs and investments that are addressing public safety. Investments in youth employment, mental health and wellness, violence prevention organizations and the elimination of vacant lots. These are long-term investments to improve public safety.
We are also strongly supportive of the Mayor’s $190 million in increased funding to the Chicago Police Department. Increasing gun violence and crime are tearing families and communities apart and it is having a significant impact on our economic recovery. We urge the Mayor and this body to do everything in their power to ensure that the almost 1,000 vacancies in the police force are filled as quickly as possible to create a stronger public safety presence deployed throughout the city.
The other daily concern I hear from our members has to do with the high property tax burden. In a year where the commercial properties in the City of Chicago are witnessing skyrocketing assessment increases coming out of the Cook County Assessor’s Office and dealing with a pandemic, this increase in the levy will be a double whammy. Small businesses in every commercial corridor are seeing assessment increases of well over 100% in many cases and will be unable to pay these property tax bills next summer.
Lastly, no sectors have been more impacted by this lagging pandemic economy than the hospitality, restaurant, and tourism industries. These industries need direct support, such as the Hotel Jobs Recovery Plan for $75 million with 80% going to workers, licensing relief and continued and expanded outdoor dining for restaurants, convention incentive dollars to cover the additional costs due to the pandemic and other forms of small business relief.
We urge members of this body to stand up for small businesses and those industries most impacted by the pandemic and craft a budget that (1) does not contain an increase to the City’s property tax levy to help both businesses and residents (especially an increase that includes a $22.9 million inflationary levy increase. Let’s put this CPI increase on hold for two years), (2) it should also include real, direct relief to the ailing hospitality and tourism industry, and (3) it prioritizes an immediate response to the ever-growing public safety crisis.
As the voice for Chicago’s business community, we stand ready to work with Mayor Lightfoot and City Council to create a budget that will foster economic growth and get our residents back to work, and keep our residents, workers, and businesses safe. Thank you for your time and consideration.