The “Finance General” category is a budgetary catch-all for non-departmental spending. There is no dedicated budget hearing devoted specifically to finance general appropriations, although in recent years it has made up close to half of the city budget.
This snapshot has been provided for the first day of budget hearings, when the Budget Director and OBM staff will be present for a budget overview.
Snapshot: Finance General Appropriation Changes from 2023 Budget
|2023 Budgeted||2024 Proposed||Net Change||Percent Change|
Finance General Highlights
- The finance general category continues to grow at a faster rate than the departmental budgets, an ongoing trend of shifting budget dollars to non-departmental accounting.
- The number of unique appropriations under finance general also continued to increase, up from 340 last year to 353 in the proposed budget.
- The city continues the practice of lumping pension and benefits costs together under the finance general umbrella, rather than broken out by individual departments, significantly reducing the on-paper cost of each department’s staffing. Other governments, including Cook County, have moved to representing benefits costs as part of departmental appropriations, giving a more accurate total operating cost for each department.
- As in previous years, several appropriations under finance general are single-department expenses, including:
- Aprox. $106m in capital costs from sewer/water funds (DWM expense)
- Aprox. $15m for fire facilities maintenance (CFD)
- $10m for home repair program (DoH)
- Aprox. $9.9m for central library maintenance (CPL)
- Aprox. $6.4m for emergency vehicles maintenance (AIS, now 2FM)
- Aprox. $4m for survivor death benefits (CFD/CPD)
- Aprox. $4.7m for consent decree (CPD)
- $500,000 reserve for snow events (DSS)
- Outside contracting (the “professional and technical services” appropriation) continues to be one of the largest non-benefits/financing cost drivers under finance general. This has been one of the fastest growing finance general categories in recent history, rising 433% from 2011-2023. The Department of Procurement Services does not have a “Finance General” category in its database of contracts, meaning there is no clear public record of what this appropriation funds.
A previously published BGA Policy analysis of the finance general category from 2011-2023 found significant growth both in terms of total dollars budgeted and categories of spending considered finance general, rather than departmental.
The overall share of the budget categorized as finance general fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, as massive sums of federal funding were added to several departmental budgets, but as of 2023 the non-departmental share of the budget has resumed climbing. The proposed budget would continue the trend, albeit at a slower rate, with finance general making up 43.7% of the total budget, up from 43.2% last year.
In the newly proposed budget, as in recent budgets, a number of finance general appropriations have been specific to only one or two city departments, rather than being true citywide or enterprise expenses. This obscures the full operational costs of some of the city’s largest departments, including the Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Police Department, and Department of Water Management.
Since 2015 the finance general budget has also included appropriations for scheduled wage adjustments, a $120.9m appropriation in the proposed budget. There are no “finance general” employees – all positions included in the budget are assigned to a specific parent department – making it unclear which wages or employees this appropriation is intended for.
From 2011-2023, the finance general budget grew at an average rate of 12.9% per year. Departmental budgets overall increased an average of 5.9% per year over the same time period, while the total city budget including Finance General appropriations grew at an average rate of 8.2% annually.
The finance general budget does not include any budgeted positions, but pension costs, which are appropriated under finance general, grew at an average annual rate of 47% per year, primarily driven by the state-mandated pension ramp starting in the 2016 budget and actuarially-calculated increases starting in 2022.
Largest Cost Drivers
Employee annuity and benefit payments remain the largest cost category by far in finance general (and in the budget overall), followed by payments and interest on bonds.
This year advance payments on annuities and benefits and the new appropriation category of new arrivals services joined the top 10 largest appropriations under finance general.
Change from Previous Year
The addition of $150m for new arrivals services is the largest single-appropriation increase in the finance general category. A new home repair program appropriation from the general fund is the second-largest total increase; apart from the new appropriation, the home repair program is handled as a Community Development Block Grant appropriation under the Department of Housing’s budget.
Other categories that saw substantial increases in their appropriation from last year include the scheduled wage adjustments, software maintenance and licensing, and transfers out to operating funds for administrative costs.
The $10m arts and culture initiatives appropriation that had been included in the 2022 and 2023 finance general budgets has been eliminated in this year’s budget. (Instead, the DCASE budget has a $6m appropriation for the same.) Other appropriations that saw significant decreases from the previous year include pass-throughs to delegate agencies and matching and supplemental grants.
Below are all the finance general appropriations that increased or decreased from the 2023 budget to the mayor’s 2024 proposal: