Because there is no departmental budget hearing scheduled for City Council, the Office of Budget and Management’s first-day presentation on the overall budget is the best opportunity alderpersons will have to publicly discuss appropriations to cover the cost of operating their legislature.

Snapshot: Appropriation & Staffing Changes from 2023 Budget

2023 Budgeted2024 ProposedNet ChangePercent Change
Appropriations$35,556,215$37,244,346$1,688,1314.7%
Positions & FTEs21221200.0%

Departmental Highlights

  • City Council’s budget underwent revisions in May 2023, when the newly elected council and administration adjusted committee assignments and budgets. The overall council budget increased by roughly $250,000 at that time, and in the new budget increases a further $1.4 million.
  • Nearly all committees saw budget increases from the May 2023 revision, as did support offices like the Legislative Reference Bureau and Council Office of Financial Analysis. Only the Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights saw a budget cut, down about 2.9% from its May 2023 budget.
  • Overall the personnel services appropriation (used instead of budgeted positions for committee staffing) is up over 20% from its original 2023 appropriation, a significant expansion of council staffing at the discretion of committee chairs.
  • The largest non-staff/ward office appropriation is the Human Infrastructure Fund appropriation, a $100,000-per-ward discretionary fund that can be used to pay for a wide range of contracted services. Added during the Lightfoot administration, Human Infrastructure Fund money has been disbursed to churches, public and private schools, business alliances and chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, private security firms, and various private businesses and non-profit organizations.

Historical Context

From 2011-2023, City Council’s budget grew at an average rate of 2.9% 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.

Council’s budgeted workforce declined at a rate of roughly -0.7% annually from 2011-2023. (However, this does not represent full council staffing levels, due to the use of the personnel services appropriation rather than budgeted positions to staff committees.) Overall budgeted positions for the city remained relatively flat across the same time period, with minor year-to-year fluctuations averaging out to an overall growth rate of -0.04%.

Council’s budget grew more rapidly under Lightfoot’s administration than in previous years, largely driven by the addition of an annual $5 million “Human Infrastructure Fund” and by increases in ward office expense accounts. 

City Council’s budget underwent revisions in May 2023, when the newly elected council and administration adjusted committee assignments and budgets. The overall council budget increased by roughly $250,000 at that time, and in the new budget increases a further $1.4 million.

Staffing

City Council’s budgeted positions did not change. Full-time budgeted positions include alderpersons and their three permanent ward staff positions, the sergeant-at-arms staff, and a small number of legislative and budget analysis staff.

Budgeted positions do not include the council’s committee workforce. Committee staff are hired as contract employees out of the various committees’ personnel services appropriation. Committee assignments and budgets were revised in May 2023, following the election of a new mayor and a number of new alderpersons. 

Below are the budgets for committees and legislative support offices from the original 2023 budget, the 2023 budget following the May revision, and the 2024 budget proposal. Nearly all committees and other office budgets saw an increase from the 2023 revised budget in the 2024 budget proposal; only the Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights saw a budget cut, down 2.9% from its May 2023 budget.

Office2023 BudgetedMidyear Adjustments2023 Revised2024 ProposedNet Change from Revised
Committee on Finance$1,174,312-$174,312$1,000,000$1,198,228$198,228
Committee on Economic Capital and Technology Development$418,877$0$418,877$431,368$12,491
Committee on Workforce Development and Audit$340,130$70,000$410,130$422,195$12,065
Legislative Reference Bureau$406,430$0$406,430$418,143$11,713
Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety$307,820$0$307,820$318,905$11,085
Committee on the Budget and Government Operations$354,320$65,000$419,320$430,352$11,032
Committee on Zoning Landmarks and Building Standards$435,963$0$435,963$446,342$10,379
Committee on Transportation and Public Way$332,820$0$332,820$341,905$9,085
Committee on Police And Fire$0$261,020$261,020$269,603$8,583
Council Office of Financial Analysis$317,680$30,000$347,680$356,236$8,556
Committee on Public Safety$231,020$0$231,020$237,876$6,856
Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy$222,724$0$222,724$229,382$6,658
Committee on Housing and Real Estate$228,743$0$228,743$235,365$6,622
Committee on Contracting Oversight and Equity$206,985$0$206,985$213,144$6,159
Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight$197,463$0$197,463$203,342$5,879
Committee on Aviation$196,120$0$196,120$201,958$5,838
Committee on Health and Human Relations$151,595$48,405$200,000$205,670$5,670
Committee on Education and Child Development$187,110$0$187,110$192,573$5,463
Committee on Special Events Cultural Affairs and Recreation$179,994$0$179,994$185,282$5,288
Committee on License and Consumer Protection$203,195$0$203,195$207,852$4,657
Committee on Committees and Rules$159,170$0$159,170$163,330$4,160
Vice Mayor$0$407,820$407,820$409,755$1,935
Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights$120,465$79,535$200,000$194,110-$5,890

Appropriations

Largest Appropriations

Council’s largest expenses are the ward staff and operational budgets, followed by the personnel services appropriation used for committee staff. 

The largest non-staff/ward office appropriation is the Human Infrastructure Fund appropriation, a $100,000-per-ward discretionary fund that can be used to pay for a wide range of contracted services. Added during the Lightfoot administration, Human Infrastructure Fund money has been disbursed to churches, public and private schools, business alliances and chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, private security firms, and various private businesses and non-profit organizations.

Change from Previous Year

The largest appropriations increases in the 2024 budget are for the personnel services appropriation and the ward staff wage allowance. The appropriation for students as trainees also saw a significant proportional increase, up 22.9% from the previous year. 

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Geoffrey Cubbage is a policy and budget analyst focusing on the Illinois General Assembly and Chicago's City Council. Prior to joining the Better Government Association in 2022, Geoffrey served as Director...