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Testimony of Jimmy M. Lago
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Chicago
Chicago City Council
November 2, 2011

My name is Jimmy M. Lago, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago since July 2000. The Chancellor is appointed by the Archbishop of Chicago and manages and coordinates the departments, offices and ministries of the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese. Recent statistics show there are 2.3 million Catholics in Lake and Cook counties, which is approximately 39 percent of the total population. Almost 1.1 million of these Catholics reside in the City of Chicago. The Archdiocese is one of the largest employers in the region, with more than 13,000 full and part-time, lay and religious employees.

There are 250 elementary and high schools within the Archdiocesan school system. Almost 100,000 students are educated every day, half within the City of Chicago boundaries. Using 2008-2009 per-pupil costs for the Chicago Public School System, savings to the City of Chicago alone amount to more than $550 million. In every major test grouping, Archdiocesan school students achieved scores above the national test averages. This also applies to ACT score comparisons. Almost 200 parishes and their elementary schools are within the city and 90 of the most needy inner city schools are served by the Big Shoulders Fund. Each year the Archdiocese provides more than $30 million of subsidy, by way of loans and grants, to parishes and schools in the poorest areas that cannot make it on their own. Half a million Chicago citizens are served by these parishes. Additionally, 159 program services sites of Catholic Charities touched more than one million needy people last year.

There are 46 Catholic cemeteries. When the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal broke a few years ago, it was the Catholic cemetery system of the Archdiocese that the Attorney General of the State of Illinois and the Cook County Sheriff turned to, to fix the problems and return faith to families wishing to bury their loved ones in safe, secure and peaceful space.

There are 643 water accounts for the Archdiocese, including parishes, schools and related facilities. The most recent analysis shows that the estimated total of these accounts is slightly more than $2,100,000. The financial burden on city parishes and schools would increase an average of almost $10,000 and maybe more, if additional sewer or other fees are contemplated in future years based on the water fees. Misericordia Heart of Mercy Village calculates the impact at $500,000.

The Archdiocese of Chicago carries the significant financial burden of educating Chicago children without regard to race or religion in some of the poorest, most financially distressed neighborhoods in the City; without which the public tax liability of Chicagoans would increase by at least $600 million. The relief requested is a very reasonable accommodation to our churches and schools. Parishes also provide gang intervention services, food pantries and feeding centers, social ministry and stability to neighborhoods, the value of which is incalculable. Recent research from the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the international preservation group, Partners in Sacred Places, shows that crime rates are lower when religious institutions are active in the area; and business stability indexes climb as well.

We are asking City government to consider the tremendous value that Catholic parishes and schools bring to the citizens of Chicago by continuing to waive fees for water and sewer. Adding these additional taxes and fees would have a very harmful impact on many inner-city parishes and schools and the other struggling schools and religious facilities that surround them. For some parishes these fees could range to more than 20 percent of their annual revenue.

Thank you for your consideration.

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