Pricier Hotels, Fewer Cop Shops in Budget

No new property taxes, but Chicago's hotel tax will likely go up from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent when Mayor Rahm Emanuel presents his budget to the Chicago City Council Wednesday.

Emanuel and his staff began briefing aldermen on the budget and in the process spilled a few spare details -- such as their plan to tap TIF funds -- about what's in their 2012 budget address.

The mayor's office later confirmed the details of this story on what they will prescribe to fix the city's $635.7 million budget short fall.

"They really didn't tell us much," one alderman  -- who would rather not be named – told Ward Room   

But the word is the mayor’s first budget will include fee increases on things like city stickers for SUVs and fines for criminal activity in neighborhoods and for illegal dumping.  Businesses will pay more for permission to host valet parking and use loading zones.  

The mayor will also apparently look at surplus TIF dollars to help balance the $635 million hole, a topic the Chicago News Cooperative delved into Tuesday.

He’d like to see the city workforce reduced to just a little more than 32,000 workers. The city currently employs about 34,000 people.

Aldermen said they’ve been told the mayor wants to begin moving to a grid-based garbage system rather than ward by ward.  Recycling on a grid basis began last week.  One other change: the mayor may be shortening library hours and may be considering closing some branches.

Aldermen said did not hear about changes to the police or fire departments, but the Chicago Sun-Times' Fran Spielman says Emanuel and McCarthy plan to shutter three district police stations -- Wood, Belmont and Prairie -- and consolidate some areas. 

A merger of special units and the combined police and fire headquarters at 35th and Michigan will create a "more agile bureaucratic structure" that Emanuel called unprecedented, Spielman reported after an interview with the mayor.

"That will be the surprises for tomorrow,' one alderman told Ward Room. 

Emanuel said he knows that such ideas aren't always easy or popular.

"We're going to balance a budget that's 20 percent out of whack, but we're going to do it without controversy? Go on -- you don't have to go online -- call me, because I'm really interested in the idea, OK? So do I expect controversy? Sure," he said at a separate event announcing 500 Accenture jobs.

The budget will be delivered before the full council 10 a.m. Wednesday. The council vote on the budget is expected in December.

UPDATEThe Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday evening publicly rejected the proposal to close and consolidate police districts.

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