Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Aldermen Hold Noses, Pass Daley's Budget

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Aldermen Hold Noses, Pass Daley's Budget
Aldermen Hold Noses, Pass Daley's Budget

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Mayor Daley

The Chicago City Council Wednesday voted 43-7 to approve Mayor Daley's final budget proposal, much to Daley's delight.

"I believe we've protected the city for the future," Daley said in trumpeting a budget that held the line on taxes and fees while dipping into city coffers. "I do not believe it is right to raise taxes with the economy as bad as it is. "

While Daley was happy, not every alderman shared his sentiment.

"Is this a budget we all like?" said Alderman Dick Mell at City Hall. "No. But we can't print money like the federal government."

Many city lawmakers are upset that the new budget appears to rob from Peter to pay Paul. Daley penciled in plans to avoid tax increases, fines and fees for 2011 by drawing down the city's reserves. The mayor earmarked $273 million from the sale of the Skyway and the parking meter lease, and another $180 million in TIF money, to help shore up a $655 million budget gap.

That plan did not sit well with bond agencies who lowered the city's rating in light of the news.

Some alderman signaled a desire not to vote for its approval.

"I am not going to be able to vote for this budget," said Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward.) Moore called for a forensic audit of the city's books and asked that the inspector general investigate the city's financial issues and create an independent budget office. "We have to stop putting off having an honest discussion."

Alderman Bob Fioretti also said he couldn't support the budget.

Still others pitched a new revenue source to help the bottom line.

Ald. Ed Burke and Carrie Austin are proposing a $1 taxi cab surcharge that could raise up to $70 million for the city. It would add $1 to all flag pulls that originate in the city.

"Many other major cities across the nation already charge more for cab rides," Ald. Austin "The City of Chicago needs to determine if higher fares could be absorbed to help balance our City budget."

Highlights of Daley's budget include:

  • Holding the line on property tax increases, fees and fines.  No new taxes, fees and fines proposed...
  • Raiding reserves generated by the Chicago Skyway and parking-meter leases...
  • Siphoning $180 million in "surplus" funds generated by TIF districts...
  • Saving $142 million by refinancing old borrowing in a way that will extend debt payments to another generation of taxpayers...
  • Reapproaching union officials to ask for more concessions, including furlough days, potentially saving $20 million...
  • Continuing a freeze on non-safety hiring, saving an estimated $20 million...
  • Cutting 277 budgeted positions, including 60 managers, supervisors and IT personnel, saving an estimated $13 million...
  • Further consolidating six departments into three...
  • Privatizing some city services, like recycling, equipment maintenance, and festival management -- including the Taste of Chicago...
  • Offering a surprise concession to business by raising the income level for the head tax to those employees earning $4,300 per quarter, up from $900 per quarter.

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