While all eyes were focused on the state budget, Chicago politics continued to chug along, if largely unnoticed. Here are four things that happened that maybe you might want to think about.
1. CPS Makes Incomplete Pension Payment
Just before the Independence Day Weekend, Chicago Public Schools closed out their fiscal year by making an incomplete payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. Paying only $464 million of the $713 million due, it was a denouement with surprisingly little fanfare considering the hystrionics of previous months about how CPS wouldn’t have enough money to pay its bills.
The Pension Fund is allowing CPS to make installment payments over time. Meanwhile, the state owes the school system hundreds of millions of late payments, and the system owes over $8 billion in debt.
So, let’s be clear here: CPS ended up the fiscal year $249 million short, and the pension system is allowing it to make installment payments over time. This has never happened before, so effectively, CPS ended up the year bankrupt. But since everyone is looking the other way and pretending it’s no big deal, it isn’t.
2. School Funding Bill In Statehouse
While state legislators pay themselves on the back for passing a budget, looming in the background is an unsigned school funding bill, SB1. Passed by the House and Senate, the bill still needs to be transmitted to Governor Bruce Rauner by Senate President John Cullerton for his signature. Gov. Rauner has promised to veto the bill, essentially because it favors Chicago too much, sending CPS too much money. Without a school funding bill, schools across the state don’t get money, and many expect their first payments on August 1.
Exactly when Cullerton plans to send Rauner SB1 for signature is an open question. Does he wait until the last minute, hoping to threaten the governor with a school closure crisis? Or does he send it sooner, with the expectation that a new special session will have to be called to retool the bill? Subscribe to the Springfield Daily Line to find out!
3. Emanuel Announces New Police/Fire Training Academy
Of all the things found in the U.S. Department of Justice and Police Accountability Task Force reports that all police officers like, it’s the idea that Chicago needs an up-to-date police academy. And hey! The city is about to begin negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police for a new contract. So, this week Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new $95 million police and fire academy in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
But, as the Chicago Tribune reports, “Asked how the city would pay for the project, city spokeswoman Julienn Kaviar said ‘the city will identify funding as the project progresses.’”
That means, they don’t know yet. And since construction isn’t expected to begin until 2018, the city has some time to figure it out.
4. Cook County Wants To Do Muni ID
For almost a year, the Chicago City Clerk has been working on launching an identification system that could be used for immigrants, homeless and others to allow them to access social and banking services. With plenty of momentum behind the plan, it seemed like a sure thing, until a pair of Cook County Commissioners and the County Clerk announced their own plan to create a County ID. They also noted that traditionally, the County Clerk (not the City Clerk) was the keeper of vital records (like birth, marriage and death records). So, the County should be the one running this program.
“This is not a competition,” County Commissioner John Fritchey said. “It’s about how we can do this best and how we can do this most efficiently.”