As Chicago aldermen prepare to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $10.67 billion 2019 spending plan, many are breathing a sigh of relief.
The budget — expected to sail through the City Council on Wednesday — contains no new taxes or fee hikes. It’s an election year gift to aldermen, whose campaigns for re-election are now running full speed ahead.
But the new fiscal year won’t be entirely painless for Chicago taxpayers, thanks to tax hikes approved by aldermen in years past. Included in the budget are a second 5 cent-per-ride increase on all trips via ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft to help modernize the CTA, the third installment of a 29.5 percent hike in water and sewer bills, and a $63 million property tax increase to help fund police and fire pensions.
But some relief is in sight for motorists. As part of the budget, aldermen are set to approve City Clerk Anna Valencia’s proposal to create a $29.28 four-month city sticker, a 15-day grace period to purchase it and a month-long amnesty for those in debt. In addition, aldermen are set to forgive ticket debt for some city motorists, but only those who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Nonpartisan watchdog group the Civic Federation called the budget “a reasonable one-year financial plan that does not include any new taxes or fees [and] makes important public safety investments.”
But before the rubber stamp aldermen are expected to apply to Emanuel’s final budget even dries, the focus will shift to how the city will staunch the red ink set to flow from the city’s pension funds. The pension bill is set to jump 31 percent in 2020, and officials have yet to propose a way to cover that expense.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan could come at the next City Council meeting, expected to take place Dec. 12.
According to the city’s annual financial analysis, Chicago’s structural deficit — the imbalance between revenues and expenditures — is set to balloon in 2020 to $251.7 million and then in 2021 to $362.2 million, based on an outlook that assumes the economy does not get significantly better — or worse.
The 2019 budget includes the following:
- Chicago Public Schools officials will pick up half of the $33 million tab racked up by assigning 211 Chicago Police officers to patrol public schools, and cover the $14 million cost of the Safe Passages program. Both line items were paid in full by the city last year.
- A new Department of Housing to focus on affordability issues — and a $1.4 million boost for the new department’s operations over its last incarnation. The city is in the midst of drafting its next five-year housing plan.
- $2.07 million to hire formerly incarcerated men and women in three programs. Eighty people would be hired to clean and beautify vacant lots in high-crime neighborhoods; 34 people would be hired as part of the CTA’s Second Chance Program and another 25 would be hired by the Department of Transportation’s Greencorps programs.
- $27.5 million for police reform, including cost of the monitoring team that will be charged with ensuring the city and Police Department comply with the changes ordered by Judge Robert M. Dow.
- $1.3 million more to buy garbage and recycling bins in an effort to get new trash cans to residents faster.
- $500,000 more for rat abatement that would allow crews to go into yards to search for and close rat holes rather than responding to complaints.
- $3.5 million more to expand and sustain youth mentoring programs to universally cover seventh grade boys.
Aldermen are also set to approve a number of items:
- Seven measures allowing the sale of packaged liquor throughout the city.
- Landmark designations for the Tribune Tower and the historic YMCA/YWCA building on the city’s West Side
- O2018-7766 — which is designed to prevent pricey three-story condominiums from replacing two-flats and pricing out renters in Andersonville
- O2018-8112 — A proposal to use $350,000 in funds from the 43rd and Cottage Grove tax increment financing district to add a walking path, landscaping, drinking fountain, workout stations and benches to Sumac Park, 4201 S. Champlain Ave.
- O2018-8114 — A proposal to use $10 million from the North Pullman TIF to construct an indoor track and field facility in Gately Park, 810 E. 103rd St.
- O2018-8116 — A proposal to use $400,000 from the Archer/Western TIF to develop a dog park at McKinley Park, 22l0 W. Pershing Road.
- O2018-8117 — A proposal to use $3 million from the Clark/Montrose TIF to renovate the fieldhouse and athletic center at Chase Park, 4701 N. Ashland Ave.
- O2018-8119 — A proposal to use $6 million from the Western Avenue South TIF to renovate the field house at Revere Park, 2509 W. Irving Park Road.
- O2018-8859 — to preserve and renovate the 122-unit Greenwood Park Apartments in Kenwood with a $2.5 million loan.
- O2018-8860 — A new 10-year management agreement with Hilton Hotels to manage the 860-room hotel on the grounds of O’Hare International Airport near Terminal 2.
- Two agreements to restructure its loan agreements (O2018-8763) with Montclare Englewood, LLC and (O2018-8238) Midwest Limited Partnership.
- O2018-8103 — A proposal to donate an obsolete city vehicle to Chicago African American Firefighters Museum.
- A2018-116 — The appointment of Richard C. Ford II as commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department
- A2015-103 — Three re-appointments to the Chicago Infrastructure Trust: Ventas CEO Debra A. Cafaro, Northern Trust Hedge Fund Services Chief Administration Officer Carl G. Lingenfelter and Miguel Zarate, a managing partner for Marquette Associates.