Reports & Analysis

What’s in Chicago’s proposed 2023 Budget?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed her $16.7 billion FY2023 budget with a heavy focus on pensions, public safety, and reducing the city’s debt. Additionally, the Mayor announced the Office of Climate and Environmental Equity which will be funded at $640,056 for six positions. 

In short, this budget does build on the $188 million dedicated to climate mitigation and environmental justice as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan however it doesn’t include funding for the Department of Environment which IEC, environmental organizations and several aldermen have advocated for. While we’re happy to see a formalized sustainability team, we will continue to advocate for an eventual Department of Environment. 

Chicago Recovery Plan progress. Here’s how far the nearly $200 million in climate infrastructure has gone: 

Clean Water & Flooding 

  • 2022: Finalized water reconnection program with internal working group and scheduled to complete construction of four Space to Grow gardens at schools by end of 2022  
  • 2023: Address water reconnections in 200 homes & integrate water reconnection program into the Department of Water Management’s overall capital program, identify five new Space to Grow sites, initiate Request for Proposals (RFPs) for construction of Green Alleys, finalize project scope for RainReady Chatham and issue project RFPs
  • $0 of 13 million spent for water reconnection to ~1,700 households 
  • $0 of 25.8 million spent on green infrastructure projects

Transportation 

  • 2022: Passage of Connected Communities ordinance (IEC supported) and city released technical assistance Request for Proposals (RFPs) before end of 2022
  • 2023: Release RFPs for grassroots organizations carrying out ETOD projects & provide grants to eligible organizations
  • $0 of 10 million for Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (ETOD) spent
  • Under Climate-Related Infrastructure Investments bond
    • 2022: purchased 106 charging stations and 7 electric vehicles, issued round three grant application for Community Infrastructure Grant Fund, distributed 200 of the 5,000 total bicycles under Bike Chicago free bike program
    • 2023: issue RFPs to deliver 182 electric vehicles by end of 2023, continue purchasing charging stations, open up second year of Bike Chicago

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects 

  • 2022: Identified housing projects eligible for decarbonization retrofits, drafted RFP for Industrial Community Solar project, conducted solar viability assessment for 16 libraries in disadvantaged and under-resourced communities
  • 2023: Begin construction on 2+ multifamily housing preservation projects with substantive decarbonization included in rehab, begin work on a single family decarbonization program, select final library solar sites to begin rooftop installations, and contract construction for Community Solar and Neighborhood Power projects
  • $93,497 of 41 million spent

Environmental Justice Initiatives and EJ Seed Grants

  • 2022: Co-develop citywide air monitoring strategy with community partners by end of 2022, installed air quality monitoring in areas with high rates of pollution, especially on the South and West sides
  • 2023: roll out public dashboard that shares air quality data & expand data collection and RFP for air monitoring activities 
  • $2.6 million of $87.5 million spent

Open Space & Conservation 

  • 2022: 9,281 trees planted, eight staff hired, cleaned and greened over 130 vacant lots, designated 30+ lots for projects including urban agriculture, secured lots from the Cook County Land Bank Authority for environmental remediation and project development near little Calumet River 
  • 2023: Release internal tree planting app & plant 15,000 new trees, continue environmental remediation work on vacant lots especially in high violence areas, further remediate land near little Calumet River 
  • $1 million of $46 spent toward tree canopy expansion 
  • $11 million of 87 million spent toward remediation of city-owned vacant lots spent

Clean Air

  • 2022: Initiated cumulative impact assessment planning with the Environmental Equity Working Group, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Illinois EPA, and Cook County, revamped Office of Environmental Permitting and Inspections’ communications and hiring process
  • 2023: Complete baseline cumulative impact assessment & install and maintain air monitors in vulnerable communities, increase permitting and inspections staff 
  • $1,222 of 2.9 million spent on improving air quality data collection
  • $614,410 of $3.8 million spent on permitting and inspections 

Waste

  • 2022: Implemented a compost pilot within the NeighborSpace network, and three DSS trucks, 
  • 2023: Create backyard composting program, new composting drop-off hubs and organics collection pilot, purchase additional organic material collection equipment
  • $2 million of 60.3 million spent 

In addition to funding set forth from the bond, the following environmental items are included in the city’s general FY23 budget:

  • Department of Water Management budget to increase by ~$37.2 million
    • Hiring of by 291 full-time equivalent positions
    • In June 2022, the city’s water rate increased by 5% and will increase annually in line with the consumer price index with a cap of 5% when the index increases significantly. One one hand, this increase will generate $817.7 million in revenue for the Water Fund which directly supports maintenance and improvements to the city’s water system; however, higher rates exacerbate the issue of water affordability and speaks to the need for a tiered water rate system.
    • $3.2 million dedicated to water meter installation and repair programs. In August, Mayor Lightfoot passed an ordinance restarting the meter installation program. It was suspended in 2019 after it was found to increase lead levels in drinking water. 
    • DWM will  focus on the city’s Lead Service Line replacement (LSLR) programs. 
  • Department of Assets, Information and Services to increase by ~$54.4 million
    • There will be a focus on finalizing the electric delivery Franchise Agreement through the Department’s Energy Services Program. The Department will have $157.6 million, up from $133.9 million in last year’s budget, allocated towards obtaining the best energy contract for rate-payers, with clean renewable energy, billing assistance, and measures to spur economic development.
    • Slight decrease in funding for the Environment Health and Safety Program, $51.9 million versus $57.1 million in 2022. The program performs work concerning sustainability planning, brownfield management, solid waste disposal, construction debris management, and NEPA reviews, in addition to providing environmental consultations.  
  • Department of Transportation budget to increase by ~$776.9 million
    • Substantial increase in funding mostly comes from federal dollars
    • A goal to upgrade all existing protected bike lanes with flexible delineators to concrete by the end of 2023 and upgrade Damen Green Line station, filling in a transit gap in the Near West Side community
    • Greatest headcount and funding increase for the Division of Engineering which prepares transportation plans, policy recommendations  and designs streets.
  • Department of Streets and Sanitation budget to increase by ~$2.6 million 
    • Will focus on developing an equitable tree canopy, vacant lots, and implementing the 2021 Waste Strategy and Climate Action Plan
    • Bureau of Forestry to increase by 8 full time equivalent positions
    • Forestry operations to increase by $2.7 million
  • Department of Public Health to decrease by $78.6 million
    • Environmental Health and Permitting which conducts inspections and issues permits  keeps headcount at 39 full time equivalent positions with a slight fall in funding– from ~16.2 in 2022 to $13.2 recommended for the 2023 budget
    • A large fall in funding is driven by the loss of American Rescue Plan federal dollars which provided $151 million dollars in the FY 2022 budget 
  • Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to increase by ~$1.3 million
    • Will focus on implementing Energy Transformation Code which was updated in September to  improve requirements for energy efficiency and clean energy technology in newly built buildings and to align with goals set in the Climate Action Plan
    • Will support urban agriculture and food access programs
  • Department of Planning and Development to increase by ~$47.6 million
    • $22.7 million dedicated to creating citywide comprehensive plans, sustainability and open space plans.. The Department will also oversee citywide vacant land sale policy and administration and rails to trails projects.

The introduction of the Mayor’s budget is just the first step. Department hearings will proceed over the next few 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 next month.

Please reach out to iyana@ilenviro.org if you have any questions.

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