Reports & Analysis

A Closer Look: Mayor Johnson’s FY2024 Chicago City Budget

IEC's City Programs Director, Iyana Simba, provides an in depth analysis of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's proposed budget for 2024, including the re-establishment of Chicago's Department of Environment.

In his first budget address, Mayor Brandon Johnson highlights some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the city: an unprecedented influx of migrants, a housing crisis worsened by COVID-19, and his commitment to reducing the city’s debt in the $16.6 billion FY2024 budget. But perhaps most pertinently, the Mayor announced the re-establishment of the Department of Environment (DOE), which was dissolved nearly a decade ago.

Alongside Chicago’s environmental movement, IEC has coordinated the campaign to bring the DOE back. That advocacy brought about a win with the establishment of the Office of Climate & Environmental Equity in the last city budget, but the city is still without a permanent, resourced Department. The 2024 city budget builds off of this growth by proposing a new Department of Environment, although, as noted in a recent editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times, it is still just a first step. To learn more about why re-establishing the department is critical, check out our blog post or Lunch and Learn program.

Additionally, Mayor Johnson announced $53 million to aid lead service line replacement in mostly Black and Latinx neighborhoods and $25 million for climate initiatives including: $4 million in the City’s Climate infrastructure grant program and $6 million to improve the city’s composting system and $15 million to decarbonize 1-4 unit homes of low-income Chicagoans. 

This budget reflects the fiscal and political realities of the Mayor’s first budget, however, it is largely also a success for environmental issues sparing cuts to critical programs and staffing. Nevertheless, strong environmental policies must follow this budget to meet the growing demands of the climate crisis. Moreover, Chicago must ensure a new DOE can support electrifying Chicagoans’ homes and can carry out a fair zoning & planning process that addresses cumulative pollution impacts.  

Chicago Recovery Plan progress. 

In 2021, Chicago dedicated $188 million to the Chicago Recovery Plan (funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and city-issued bonds) to climate infrastructure projects. This year, the City did not release a budget report on the Plan, instead, they released a report in July 2023. You can read the full report here, but you can also find the highlights below:

Progress in 2023:

  • In May, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an executive order that commits the City to environmental justice. This was largely a result in order to comply with the city’s voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which requires Chicago to take a number of actions to reform historical policies and practices that have dumped industry and pollution on low income, Black and Latinx communities.
      • In September, community leaders and the City of Chicago released the Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) to characterize community-level exposure and vulnerability to pollution. 
      • CDPH provided guidance to Chicago Departments to draft their Environmental Justice Action Plan. Departments must outline how they will coordinate policies and practices to address environmental impacts. 
  • 116 electric vehicles purchased (as of July 2023) for the City of Chicago’s fleet.
  • 162 charging stations for the City’s municipal fleet installed, prioritizing deployment in areas with poor air quality/health issues within Black and Latinx communities.
  • The City sought program providers to retrofit 1 to 4-unit residential buildings for lower energy use and carbon emissions.
  • In Mayor Johnson’s budget address, he announced the Food Scrap Drop-Off program, which expands the previous pilot program from 6 to 15 locations throughout the City. As of early July, 943 pounds of food scraps were diverted from the municipal waste stream and composted. 

Plans for 2024:

  • Announce finalists for the Second Round of the City’s Climate Infrastructure Fund (CIF) grants. CIF funding provides funding for energy efficiency, electrical vehicles and charging, and green infrastructure projects for nonprofits and small businesses 
  • Develop a long-term community air monitoring strategy in partnership with environmental justice community organizations and academic partners.
  • Plant 55,000 trees by the end of 2024.

The following are environment-related appropriations in the FY24 proposed budget

Department of Environment

What do they do: The new Department will not exactly mirror the previous one. It will largely take on the duties of the Office of Climate and Environmental Equity (OCEE) created last year. The DOE will advance equitable climate and environmental policy across all sectors and Departments, guided by the Climate Action Plan, which outlines actions to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions 60% by 2040. Additionally, the Department will work to secure federal and state funding for climate infrastructure projects. Unlike the previous DOE, the new one lacks enforcement power as environmental permitting and inspections will, for now, remain underneath the Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Proposed budget: $1.8 million (OCEE was funded at $676,942 in the FY2023 budget). Advocates are pushing for more funding for the DOE in the final FY2024 budget.

OCEE Notable accomplishments in 2023:

  • Assisted CDPH in Cumulative Impacts Assessment.
  • Awarded Climate Infrastructure Fund dollars to nonprofits and small businesses and launched a second round of funding in August.
  • Coordinated implementation of the Chicago Recovery Plan.
  • Worked with CDPH and City Departments to develop the Environmental Justice Action Plan.

Focus for 2024:

  • Support the Department of Housing with $15 million dedicated to Residential Decarbonization Retrofit Program for income-qualified 1-4 unit homes
  • Support Fleets and Facilities Management Department with library solar and energy efficiency projects and fleet electrification planning study. 
  • Support the Department of Streets and Sanitation in expanding composting and increasing community gardens.

Department of Public Health

What do they do: Provides guidance, services, and strategies to protect Chicagoans’ health, including disease control, mental health, substance abuse, violence prevention, food protection and environmental permitting, and inspections.

Proposed budget: $887.9 million (a significant drop from $983.7 million in FY2023 budget, this is mostly a result of more than $102.8 million decline in grant funding)

Notable accomplishments in 2023:

  • In partnership with frontline environmental justice communities, conducted the Cumulative Impact Assessment. 

Focus for 2024:

  • No environmental-related initiatives were outlined in the 2024 Budget Overview however, the Department will likely continue to work with frontline groups and the new Department of Environment to carry out policies resulting from the Cumulative Impact Assessment.
  • Environmental Health and Permitting program, responsible for performing environmental  inspections, enforcing environmental law, and issuing environmental permits, maintains 40 full-time equivalent (FTE)  positions funded at $15.2 million. 

Department of Water Management

What do they do: Operates and maintains the City’s sewer and drinking water infrastructure. The Department collects, processes, and distributes the City’s drinking water to residents and 120 suburbs. 

Proposed budget: $37.6 million (slightly down from $38.9 million in FY2023)

Notable accomplishments in 2023:

  • Started development of an 8-mile long tunnel and other flooding and sewer backup mitigation infrastructure for the South Side Area 4 Watershed.
  • Launched Daycare, Leaks and Breaks and Block-Long led service line replacement (LSLR) programs. 2486 lead service lines were replaced in 2023.

Focus for 2024:

  • Invest $53 million for LSLR, prioritizing replacement in daycare centers and Black and Latinx communities. The Department will also pursue more federal dollars via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
  • Expand the Chicago metering program. $12.3 million dedicated to the Bureau of Meter Services. In August 2022, former Mayor Lightfoot passed an ordinance restarting the meter installation program.
  • In June 2022, the City set its water rate to increase annually in line with the consumer price index with a cap of 5% when the index increases significantly. As such, the water rate has increased to $4.55/1000 gallons and is expected to generate $812.8 million that will go into the Water Fund- which primarily funds operation, maintenance and improvement of the City’s water systems. However, higher rates exacerbate the issue of water affordability and speaks to the need for a tiered water rate system.

Department of Technology & Innovation 

What do they do: This new Department will take over many of the operations that were under the former Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS). It will oversee the city’s information technology environment and will formulate and implement City’s IT strategy. 

Proposed budget: $79.8 million

Focus for 2024:

  • Modernization project, which includes updating the City’s billing system. Water advocates have long called on the city to update its system in order to implement an affordable tiered water rate system. 

Department of Transportation 

What do they do: Maintain and improve Chicago’s transportation infrastructure, including streets, alleys, sidewalks, ADA ramps, and bikeways. The Department also coordinates freight infrastructure planning, policy, and implementation. 

Proposed budget: $655.1 million (down from $1.5 billion in FY2023, mostly due to fall in COVID-era federal funding)

Notable Accomplishments in 2023: 

  • Built a pedestrian bridge at 43rd street, connecting South Side Chicagoans to the lakefront.
  • Expanded Divvy stations to every neighborhood in Chicago.
  • Produced Chicago Cycling Strategy and vision for the next 150 miles of bikeways.

Focus for 2024:

  • Update the 100-year-old State/Lake “L” platform. 
  • Complete Damen Green Line station construction, filling in a transit gap in the Near West Side community.
  • Rehabilitate the Lake Street Bascule Bridge that carries CTA trains and vehicular & pedestrian traffic.
  • Implement 20 miles of walkable streetscapes along South and West Side commercial corridors.

Department of Streets and Sanitation 

What do they do: This department does a lot. Besides street cleaning, snow removal, and rodent control, it oversees residential waste, recycling for single-family and 2-4 unit multi-family homes, composting, and is responsible for the planting, removal, and maintenance of the City’s tree canopy.

Proposed budget: $344.7 million (a modest increase from $311.5 million in the FY2023 budget, the increase will mostly go toward the Bureau of Sanitation and Rodent Control)

Notable Accomplishments in 2023:

  • Hired new recycling and forestry staff.
  • Introduced transparent Blue Cart Recycling map.
  • Planted 18,00 trees using funding from the Chicago Recovery Plan. 
  • Switched from 311 complaint-based tree trimming system to equitable “area trimming”.
  • Began convening Urban Forestry Advisory Board which investigates and offers recommendations on tree-related issues in alignment with the Our Roots Chicago Initiative. 

Focus for 2024:

  • Bureau of Forestry to increase from $23 million to $29 million, with growth linked to focus on tree planting and tree trimming.
  • Bureau of Sanitation, responsible for trash collection and recycling, to increase from $187 million to $204.4 million. 
  • Develop an equitable tree canopy.
  • Carry out composting efforts, including Food Scraps Drop-Off program.

Department of Planning and Development 

What do they do: Manages economic development initiatives, administers city’s zoning laws and implements sustainable growth initiatives and policies that foster climate resiliency. 

Proposed budget: $186.3 million (slightly down from $208.1 million in the FY203 budget)

Notable accomplishments in 2023: 

  • Completed WeWill Chicago, a citywide planning initiative to enhance equity and resiliency over the next decade. It was adopted by the Plan Commission in February. 

Focus for 2024:

  • Work with the Department of Fleets and Facilities Management on environmental assessments and remediation related to the Englewood Nature Trail.
  • Support industrial corridor planning to help resolve environmental justice issues and work to comply with the City’s voluntary HUD agreement. 

Department of Buildings

What do they do: Enforce Chicago’s Construction and Energy Transformation Codes, oversee construction, demolition, and repairs permits, and conduct annual technical inspections of buildings and businesses. 

Proposed budget: $40.1 million (slightly up from $38.6 million in the FY 2023 budget)

Focus for 2024: Although no environmental focuses were laid out in the 2024 Budget Overview, this summer, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition launched a campaign calling for a plan to electrify residential buildings in Chicago. The DOB will play a critical role in implementing that effort.

Department of Law

What do they do: Manage Litigation, transactional, and legislative projects on behalf of the City. Additional DOL drafts, reviews, and advises the City on federal, state, and local legislation. 

Proposed budget: $46.4 million ($45.6 in FY 2023 budget)

Notable accomplishments in 2023:

  • Closed $740 million bond issue that includes social bonds that meet the City’s environmental, social, and governance objectives.

Focus for 2024:

  • Pursue climate change litigation against fossil fuel companies.
  • Collaborate with federal agencies to improve Chicago’s waterways.

Department of Fleet and Facility Management

What do they do: This new Department will manage and maintain city vehicles, equipment, and properties, duties previously under the AIS Department.

Proposed budget: $530.9 million ($568.4 million dedicated to fleets and facilities program in FY2023)

Notable accomplishments in 2023:

  • In 2023- expanded City’s electric vehicle infrastructure by purchasing and installing 186 electric vehicle charging stations, predominantly in the South and West sides of the City; moreover, an additional 217 fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were purchased, in line with the Chicago Climate Action Plan.

Focus for 2024:

  • Work with the Department of Planning and Development on environmental assessments and remediation related to the Englewood Nature Trail.

Other notable environmental items:

  • ~$1 million line item for request for proposal (RFP) for tree inoculation under the Department of Procurement. Inoculation is important to protect trees from diseases and pest that would otherwise kill them and decrease the city’s overall tree canopy. 
  • The Department of Housing budget includes a position to focus on bringing more accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as the tiny homes program, and the implementation of Connected Communities ordinance–which combined encourage denser housing around public transit. In May, Ald. Bennett Lawson (44) proposed an ordinance (O2023-2075) that would expand the city’s current ADU pilot program citywide.

The introduction of the Mayor’s budget is just the first step. Department hearings will proceed over the next couple of weeks, during which IEC will continue to advocate on behalf of environmental priorities and educate Council members. We will keep you up to speed on developments through the final budget vote later this year.

Please reach out to if you have any questions.

Share this post with your friends