ChicagoBudget.org, the city’s interactive budget website, went live Friday morning.
Already, the interactive suggestion box is filling up:
- Erik works across the street from a tropical garden on Michigan Avenue. He said the city could save money by planting perennials there instead.
- Janet said her block in Pilsen doesn’t need to be swept twice a week.
- And "concerned citizen" suggests: "Offer incentives for city workers to improve fitness and health to reduce insurance costs" (An idea Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed during the campaign).
Emanuel hopes the website generates ideas to help him close the $635.7 million deficit expected in the 2012 budget, which the mayor’s office will release in October.
"I have committed to making the tough choices needed to put our fiscal house in order and protect Chicago’s taxpayers,” Emanuel said in a press release. “As we move forward in this budget process, my administration is open to ideas from across the city on how to tackle the challenges we face.”
The site includes a link to the 2011 Annual Financial Analysis, which shows that revenues are expected to increase from $3.129 billion last year to $3.271 billion this year. Tax receipts are going down across the board, so all the growth is in “non-tax revenues”: licenses, permits, services, fees and fines. The real estate transfer tax has dropped by nearly two-thirds since 2006, but the city has made up the gap by writing more tickets for parking and red-light camera violations.
Aldermen should be especially interested in the site’s suggestion box. It may be their only chance to offer their input into the budget.