Updated: 11:30 AM 10/10/2012
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel followed through on his promise of no new taxes or fees Wednesday as he announced his proposal for the city's 2013 budget.
Emanuel told City Council members his plan to close the $298 million dollar budget gap won't include an increase in sales, property, fuel or amusement taxes, and would eliminate the city's employee head tax in the next two years. Instead, Emanuel says the city will save millions by reforming the city’s tax increment financing program, laying off city employees, and cutting spending.
"From now on, Chicago will no longer be a city that punishes job creation: we will promote it," Emanuel said in his prepared remarks, to loud applause from city council members.
The mayor says his administration would save $20 million dollars by cutting 275 positions from the city payroll, and they dug up around $5 million dollars in savings from healthcare fraud. His budget would also include $10 million in savings from a reform of the TIF system. And according to Emanuel, city revenues have increased by $40 million dollars.
"We are not in this position today by coincidence, but by choice. By speaking honestly, thinking differently, and leading forcefully, we gave families and companies the confidence to choose Chicago," Emanuel said.
The mayor also touted some of his own work from earlier this year: the wellness program for city employees, the grid garbage system, labor agreements, and the extension of the school day for Chicago Public Schools students.
Emanuel said there would be more spending in some places: The city would triple the number of CPS students who receive eye care, invest in pre-kindergarten for the next three years, and continue investing in summer programs for students.
The mayor also tackled a major issue among aldermen and Chicago residents: the increase of violence across the city. The mayor said he wants to "reinvent" the city's community policing strategy that would, "build a better bridge between officers on the beat and residents."
"CAPS has become way too bureaucratic," the mayor said. "We will move all CAPS resources and staffing districts where they belong, so that each commander in each district can design their own community policing efforts to fight crime and gangs in their respective neighborhoods."
The mayor also assured aldermen that police manpower would soon be at "full strength." By his count, 457 police recruits will be in training by the end of this year, the largest number since 2006.
Pat Camden, spokesman for the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said he is skeptical of that charge.
"What do they consider to be full staffing?" Camden said. "We don't have the numbers that we need out there."
Camden said those 457 officers in training will make up for police department's attrition rate of about 500 officers per year, but he said it won't help fill the 1400 officers Emanuel cut in last year's budget.
"We're still at that minus 1400 level that's necessary to be able to do these nice things that everybody wants to do," Camden said. "You know, the CAPS program is a nice thing to do, it's a necessary thing to do, but again you need resources."
Emanuel also used his remarks to call on lawmakers in Springfield to tackle the state's looming pension issues. According to Emanuel, in the next four years, pension obligations will take up 22 percent of Chicago's budget totalling about 1.2 billion dollars.
"No one should underestimate the difficult choices involved in delivering the reforms we need to stabilize our pensions and our pension payments. But they pale in comparison to the alternative – eliminating all of the essential services that Chicago’s residents expect and pay for," Emanuel said.