This October, Mayor Brandon Johnson is expected to deliver his first budget address to the Chicago City Council. Johnson’s budget recommendations must balance a number of things, including the looming budget deficit that’s projected at $538 million, the influx of migrants and campaign promises that align with progressives’ vision for the city. 

There’s a lot at stake for Johnson, who’s just over 100 days into his first term in office. In mid-October, his administration’s budget address will be an important test in his first term as mayor.

The Chicago City Council must pass a balanced budget by Dec. 31. 

During a press conference on Sept. 14, Johnson reiterated his promise not to raise property taxes to close the budget gap. 

“We are going to continue to work with all of our departments, as well as with my colleagues to craft a budget that speaks to our values,” Johnson said.  “As I said when I was campaigning, we’re going to make sure that we find efficiencies within the budget that can help move our budget towards a balanced presentation.”

He added that he and his administration value “making critical investments and balancing a budget that doesn’t burden working people. Those are our values, and we’re not going to negotiate those.”

Since June, city leaders have been preparing for the budget address. The Office of Budget and Management prepares the annual budget, which outlines the city’s income, spending and debts. On Sept. 13, Mayor Brandon Johnson released a budget forecast projecting that the city will face a $538 million budget shortfall in 2024. 

You can think of the city’s budget as an overview of money coming in and going out, plus what the city chooses to prioritize, whether that be in the form of an increase or decrease in spending. It’s also where you can see how the city funds services and programs. 


The heart of Johnson’s campaign message was investing in people. For Johnson, that looks like examining the root causes of violence and pouring money and resources in communities that have experienced decades of disinvestment.

Johnson said he would not defund the police. Yet, he wants to approach violence prevention holistically. During a January interview with The TRiiBE, Johnson said, “The police budget is almost $3 billion, and our communities aren’t safer. I don’t know how we can continue to go down a path that has demonstrated that it doesn’t work.”

The police budget makes up about 35 percent of the city’s corporate fund, which is the largest of the city’s six funds, that are used to fund city services and programs. Dollars from the corporate fund are used for city operations and services like the Chicago police and fire departments and more. 

Previous mayors, such as former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, increased the police budget despite pleas from Chicago organizers to defund the CPD and reallocate those dollars to community-based organizations, mental health and violence prevention programming. Lightfoot increased the police budget from $1.7 billion in 2021 to $1.9 billion in 2022. 

During former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure, the police budget steadily increased from $1.3 billion in 2012 to nearly $1.6 billion in 2018, his final year in office. 

As a part of Johnson’s promise to invest in people, he pledged to support and expand programming and summer employment for youth. This summer, more than 24,000 young people were employed through the city’s One Summer Chicago program, which is a 19 percent increase from 2022. 

Previous investments in youth programming have steadily increased since 2011. In Emanuel’s 2019 budget, he proposed increasing funding for youth and children by investing $77 million compared to $21 million under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Lightfoot followed this trend of investment in youth and children in her budget proposals. Lightfoot’s administration invested $150 million in youth programming and services to support youth and their family in 2022 and 2023.

This budget season, we should take a look at the Johnson administration’s proposed investments for youth-centered programming and summer employment, which would indicate how his administration prioritizes youth.

The TRiiBE made a list of important information about the budget process, what the budget entails and what to anticipate when Mayor Johnson introduces his proposed budget in mid-October.

What is a budget, and why is it necessary?

A budget is a plan that outlines the city’s income, spending and debts. Each year, the Chicago City Council must vote to approve a balanced budget. If approved by the City Council, the new budget goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Who’s responsible for putting the budget together?

The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) prepares the city’s annual budget. The OBM works alongside city departments, including the Mayor’s Office and the Chicago City Council, to create an annual appropriation ordinance, a grant details ordinance, a budget overview and budget recommendations.

When does the budget process begin, and where are we in that process?

Each year, the city’s budget process starts in June and lasts through December. City departments are responsible for submitting detailed budget requests to the OBM. The OBM also hosts a series of meetings with each department to outline their needs for the upcoming year. 

Next, the city hosts a series of budget engagement roundtables in July for public input. Residents outline their top priorities and concerns with city officials at these roundtables. 

On Sept. 13, Mayor Brandon Johnson released a budget forecast projecting that the city will face a $538 million budget shortfall in 2024. Now, the mayor and the OBM are tasked with identifying ways to plug the deficit to balance the budget. The mayor will then introduce his recommendations during a budget address in October.

What does a budget typically include?

The city’s budget includes the budgets of more than 30 city departments, such as CPD and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), and more. The city’s budget doesn’t include the budgets for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Chicago Park District or the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Each of these departments operates their budgets separately from the city of Chicago. 

What are the city’s funding sources, and where does money from the budget go?

Money for the city’s budget comes from various sources, including property taxes, business and income taxes, fees, fines and grants. 

That money is then directed to specific funds, including corporate, enterprise, grant, special revenue, pension and debt service. Dollars from each fund are earmarked for corresponding city services and programs. 

For example, the corporate fund, which is the largest of the six funds, is used for city operations and services like the Chicago police and fire departments, business and consumer services and city services like tree trimming. 

The enterprise fund is used for the city’s water and sewer system and for Midway and O’Hare airports. This fund receives money from user fees designated by the city to use its water and sewer systems.

The city receives grants and donations from state and federal government agencies and private organizations. Those dollars are directed to its grant fund. 

Money from the city’s special revenue fund is generated from things like fees collected from city vehicle sticker sales. A $5 surcharge appears on cell phone bills. The city uses that to fund the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, which is the city’s 911 service line. 

Pension funds are designated for city employees such as police officers and firemen. Four separate pension accounts are under the city’s pension fund, and the purpose is to provide benefits upon retirement, death or disability to city employees and their beneficiaries.

Long-term capital improvements such as lighting, sidewalk replacement, curb and gutter repair, street resurfacing, and bridge rehabilitation are financed through the city’s debt service fund. 

This fund also included general obligation and revenue bonds and loans. 


When is the 2024 budget address?

Mayor Johnson must submit his proposed budget to the City Council on or before October 15.

What happens after the mayor delivers the 2024 budget address in October?

After Mayor Johnson delivers the budget address in mid-October, the mayor’s recommendations are submitted to the City Council committee on budget and government operations for review. The committee hosts a series of budget hearings between October and December to review the mayor’s proposed budget. The City Council is required under Illinois law to host at least one public hearing to gather input from city residents. 

City Council members may propose amendments to the mayor’s budget recommendations. After the budget hearings, final amendments are submitted as the final budget. Then, the full body must vote to approve the budget, a.k.a the annual appropriation ordinance, no later than Dec. 31.

How much power does the mayor have over the budget?

The mayor is Chicago’s chief executive officer and can appoint and remove people to lead city departments, preside over City Council meetings, craft and enact laws at the city level; and the mayor has veto power. The City Council holds the reins on approving the budget and mayoral appointments.

How much power does the Chicago City Council have over the budget?

It’s very rare for council members to oppose the mayor’s budget proposal. The mayor needs at least 26 votes from alders to approve the final budget. According to an analysis by the Chicago Reader, no more than three alders have voted against the budget proposal between 1990 and 2013. 

What will Mayor Johnson prioritize in his 2024 budget?

What will Mayor Johnson prioritize in his 2024 budget? 

Johnson’s promises on the campaign trail offer some insight into what values he may prioritize, for his first budget address. It will be an important test of his progressive bona fides.

On the campaign trail, Johnson promised to prioritize the passage of Bring Chicago Home. This ordinance would increase the real estate transfer tax on sales valued at more than $1 million to create a dedicated revenue stream to address homelessness. 

On Sept. 14, he introduced the Bring Chicago ordinance to the City Council that would place a binding referendum on the March 2024 ballot. 

He also promised to pass Treatment Not Trauma and the Peacebook Ordinance within his first 100 days in office. Neither have been brought up to City Council for a vote. The City Council’s Health and Human Relations Committee held its first public hearing on the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance on July 24. On Sept. 26, the committee voted to approve the formation of a working group dedicated to mental health services. That working group will develop a framework for Treatment Not Trauma. Now, it must be approved by a full City Council vote.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.