Chicago’s Emanuel won’t rule out property tax as pension problem looms

Mayor Rahm Emanuel  defended his failed attempt to ease pension payments bearing down on the Chicago Public Schools and did not rule out increases in property taxes or class sizes after coming up empty-handed.

The surprise bill rejected by the Illinois General Assembly would have extended for two more years a so-called pension “holiday” that allowed CPS to pay just $196 million into the teachers’ retirement fund this year.

Those annual payments are scheduled to balloon to more than $612 million next year. But the failed bill would have eased those obligations — to $350 million next year and $500 million in 2015.

On Wednesday, Emanuel was asked whether a $1 billion school budget deficit could be eliminated without yet another up-to-the-limit property tax increase.

“The Chicago Public Schools is working through the issues. I can’t tell you today what their budget’s gonna be line-by-line. I know that the first priority is to protect the classroom and to protect our children’s education and to also find savings — as we have to pay for a full day of kindergarten — through administrative savings, as we have from Day One,” he said.