How Does the City of Chicago Spend Your Tax Dollars?

September 08, 2009

Did you ever wonder how your property tax dollars are spent by the City of Chicago? How many people work for the Department of Streets and Sanitation? How much those employees are paid? What kinds of taxes and fees the City levies and how much revenue it gets from each one?

The answers to these and many other questions can be found in the City of Chicago’s budget documents and audited financial report. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are four City budget documents published every year plus the audited financial report to wade through to get those answers. So, how can a citizen find out where to locate basic information on the City’s spending, taxes, grants and workforce?

The Civic Federation has put together a two-part presentation on how to read the City’s annual budget documents and audited financial report to help citizens better understand and access the important fiscal information they contain. If you go here on our website you will find a presentation on what the City’s key financial documents are, how you can access them and what they contain. That presentation is accompanied by a handout that provides several examples from the various financial documents.

Three of Chicago’s annual budget documents and the audited financial report are all available online on the City’s website. Unfortunately, the “Recommendations” document, which lists personnel information, is only available in hard copy in libraries or from City Hall. Also information about tax increment financing (TIF) districts cannot be found in the budget.

The Civic Federation strongly supports putting all Chicago budget documents online and including TIF revenue and appropriation information in each annual budget. The City Council, however, has approved a TIF Sunshine Ordinance that requires the City Department of Community Development to provide online information on TIF that includes TIF district ordinances, redevelopment agreements, staff reports presented to the Community Development Commission, TIF overview prepared by the Department and annual reports and certificates of completion.