Exit Interview with Alex Holt, Chicago Budget Director

When Alex Holt took the helm of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget office in 2011, Chicago faced a budget deficit of $654 million. By 2017, that deficit is down to $137 million.  

After six years of being the city's budget director and 20 years at City Hall, Holt is stepping down.

Although the city has wrestled the deficit down with a series of tax increases and some belt tightening, Chicago’s fiscal picture isn’t pretty.

With no state budget in sight, there's little hope for any pension relief as Chicago Public Schools is dealing with another fiscal crisis and credit downgrades.

And now taxpayers could face yet another new tax—this one on phones—to help cover city pension fund payments.  

Holt joins host Phil Ponce to discuss the city’s past, present and fiscal future. She plans to leave her post by the end of June or early July, and will be replaced by Samantha Fields who currently is Chicago’s business affairs and consumer protection commissioner.

Facts and Figures

City of Chicago’s 2016-2017 budget is $8.2 billion
Fiscal year 2016 projected budget deficit is $137 million
Net unfunded pension liabilities: $27 billion
In 2015, a record $543 million property tax passed to help close deficit and pay for pension obligations.

In January 2017, the city of Chicago borrowed $1.2 billion in bonds.
Fast facts about that borrowing:

• $687 million to be used to help close budget gaps thru 2019
• $440 million to restructure debt which includes $77 million to just pay interest
• $225 million to cover settlements and judgments past and future ($110 million for all 2016 judgments and settlements)

CPS just borrowed $389 million to keep schools open through the end of the school year.
The short-term loan will also help pay for CPS’ $733 million pension payment due June 30
CPS current budget deficit is $129 million resulting from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a $215 million bill to pay employee pensions.
Illinois also owes CPS $467 million in grants.


Related stories:

Chicago Public Schools to Borrow $389 Million to Stay Open

May 19: Chicago Public Schools is once again turning to its lenders, this time to keep doors open until the end of the school year on June 20.


Mayor Emanuel Reappoints Inspector General, Budget Director Resigns

May 12: City Budget Director Alexandra Holt, who has held the job since the mayor’s first election in 2011, will be leaving her post.


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April 19: Can the city and Chicago Public Schools get on the road to fiscal health without bankruptcy? Lessons from other cities.