With a $1.1 Billion Deficit Looming, Chicago Public Schools Presents Stripped-Down Capital Budget

PINCHING PENNIES: On Friday, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) proposed a slashed capital budget and called for state aid to address the remainder of its $1.1 billion district deficit.

The $160 million capital budget, which focuses on construction and infrastructure work, would cover only existing projects and the most urgent repairs, reports the Chicago Tribune. It is less than half the size of last year’s $400 million budget. (Daily operations, salaries and interest payments are covered by a district’s operating budget.)

The budget is financed with $113 million from district funding and $47 million from the city of Chicago, federal funding and other sources. It is the smallest capital budget put forward by the district since 1996.

"It is a bleak picture. That's the reality of the situation," Jesse Ruiz, interim district CEO and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, told the Chicago Tribune. "I hope all the citizens of Illinois acknowledge this, that we need to step up as Illinoisans and particularly as Chicagoans."

The proposal came just one day after CPS announced it would not offer a one-year contract extension to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), citing an inability to pay the $105 million in pay raises that the existing contract would require. Without the extension, CPS will need to take the more difficult step of negotiating a new contract with the union.

“In the coming weeks, we hope to work with you on the most pressing fiscal issue facing CPS — the continued inequity in pension funding. CPS students and Chicago taxpayers continue to carry the burden of this inequity, and it has come at a great cost,” wrote Ruiz in a letter to CTU President Karen Lewis.

The district must have a prepared budget by the end of August.

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