WBEZ | civic federation http://www.wbez.org/tags/civic-federation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fare Game: When do CTA Buses Break Even? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 <p><p>The midnight ride started it. Actually, it was about half past midnight. That&rsquo;s when Fred Pineda, who moved to the city seven years ago to attend the University of Chicago, would climb aboard the #6 bus to take him back to Hyde Park once he was done partying downtown. Fred says he made the trip often and &ldquo;usually there would only be about four or five of us on that bus, especially during weekdays. I was thinking, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no way the CTA is making money off this route.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Fred has since moved to the North Side, and hasn&rsquo;t taken that trip in a while. But a question from those days has stuck with him, the same question he&rsquo;s posed to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many fares does it take for a bus to get to the break even point?</em></p><p>The &ldquo;break even point&rdquo; is that sweet spot where the amount of cash coming into the farebox on a given bus line matches what is going out to cover the bus&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>This is a big question for the second-largest public transit system in the country. Just in the first half of this year, about 869,000 weekday trips were taken on CTA buses. The agency spends $764 million to maintain that service, with a good chunk of that amount coming from public funds.</p><p>Technically, the CTA <em>could</em> break even &mdash; &nbsp;at least on paper. To get at exactly how, we ran a two-part thought experiment. The first looks at what the break even point actually is, while the second investigates what the CTA would have to change in service, pricing, and access in order for bus operations to pay for themselves.</p><p>In laying out the serious financial gymnastics required to create a wholly self-sufficient CTA bus service, we realize this story is more complex than finding a magic price point: There&rsquo;s often an impulse to make people who use a service pay its full cost, but when it comes to public transit, even some fiscal watchdogs agree that the goal of &ldquo;breaking even&rdquo; is not all it&rsquo;s cracked up to be.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Breaking even</span></p><p>To answer Fred&rsquo;s question, we have to determine what CTA buses earn, and compare that to what it costs to run the system. Most of the CTA&rsquo;s expenses fall into one of two categories: 1) overall costs (fuel, driver salaries, maintenance, and administration); and 2) capital costs (the price tags for new buses). According to transportation figures which the agency reports to the federal <a href="http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/">National Transit Database</a>, the CTA lines up fare collection data against its overall operating costs and excludes capital costs, since operating costs are where the bulk of the annual budget is directed.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s overall bus costs added up to $764,280,757 in 2013 &mdash; the latest year for which data are available.</p><p>In that same year, CTA buses earned $298,824,494 just in fares, or 39 percent of what it spent on its overall costs. The remaining 61 percent was mainly paid for with state and city subsidies deriving from sales taxes and Chicago&rsquo;s real estate transfer tax.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fareboxrecoverycomparison.PNG" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Although the CTA prefers not to look at its bus service through the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; lens, some of its buses do cross that threshold in certain circumstances, according to Yonah Freemark, a city planner who specializes in transportation and development policy for the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/people/staff-member/?id=67">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p><p>Freemark bases his calculations on RTA data, as well as figures from the National Transit Database. He says it costs about $132 per hour for the CTA to operate a bus. Therefore, Freemark figures, in order to cover the full cost of its operations over a single hour, one bus would have to earn $132 per hour at the farebox. That covers costs for the driver, gas, administration, and maintenance. (Again, it leaves out capital costs, such as the bus itself.)</p><p>With a <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">full fare set at $2 per person</a> &nbsp;(<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">o</a>r<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>$<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">2</a>.<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">2</a>5<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>i<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">f</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">y</a>o<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">u</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">p</a>a<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">y</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">c</a>a<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">s</a>h)<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>a CTA bus would seemingly need just 66 passengers to come aboard during that hour in order for that bus to break even. But in 2013, the <em>average</em> rider only paid about a dollar per trip. This is because, in compliance with state and federal regulations, the <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/reduced.aspx">CTA offers a large number of riders free or reduced fares</a>, including students, seniors, people in the military, and disabled passengers. There are also unlimited ride passes, and multiple rides taken via transfers.</p><p>&ldquo;Given the fact that the average passenger on a bus is only paying about $1 per trip,&rdquo; says Freemark, a bus needs about 132 riders over the course of an hour in order to cover its costs.</p><p>With 128 bus routes operating throughout Chicago and 35 suburbs, it seems that if you add up all of the service hours throughout the entire CTA bus system (math that the CTA has been reluctant to do or share, citing considerations of staff time), you are likely to find that (a) most buses most of the time do not break even, and (b) breaking even is most prone to occur during peak hours, and not on every line.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The cost of breaking even</span></p><p>The CTA has not announced plans to raise fares any time soon, and actually, a thought experiment may help understand why: What if the CTA wanted to break even? That is, what if the agency paid for all of its bus operating costs solely with what it earns from bus passengers?</p><p>According to Freemark, the fare price would have to skyrocket. &ldquo;You would need to increase the fare to $5.12 per trip,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an increase of 156 percent.&rdquo;</p><p>That new $5.12 figure would be the equivalent of today&rsquo;s &ldquo;full fare&rdquo; price of $2.00. Under this scenario, reduced fares for veterans, seniors, and children would also rise proportionately, and Freemark&rsquo;s math accounts for the effects of free transfers and monthly passes. The bottom line, though, is that higher sticker price would fetch enough bus fares to cover the bus system&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>Freemark&rsquo;s take on this: &ldquo;Doing that would immediately result in a significant decline in the number of people taking the buses.&rdquo;</p><p>Freemark points to the <a href="https://hbr.org/2015/08/a-refresher-on-price-elasticity">concept of price elasticity</a>. As the price of something goes up &mdash; a candy bar, or a gallon of gas &mdash; the number of people willing to pay goes down. Transit elasticity, Freemark says, has a formula that&rsquo;s about -0.4, meaning every time fares increase by 10 percent, the number of riders drops by 4 percent. A full fare of $5.12 would equate to a price hike of 156 percent; Freemark expects CTA bus ridership would fall by 62.4 percent.</p><p>To test this thought experiment, we run our hypothetical price hike by Chicagoan Quinn Naughton, a regular bus rider who says &mdash; thought experiment or not &mdash; the CTA should never consider such a dramatic increase in fares.</p><p>&ldquo;People should protest, people should actually revolt,&rdquo; he says, adding that under our scenario, he would have to move &mdash; probably out of Chicago.</p><p>If the CTA wants to break even, Freemark says, the agency has a couple of other options, like increasing ridership. But, he warns &ldquo;if we more than doubled the number of people riding the bus everyday, you&rsquo;d need many, many more buses, so you&rsquo;d dramatically increase the cost of operations of the bus system.&rdquo;</p><p>Translation: You&rsquo;ll just end up spending more than you recover in fares. Freemark says faster buses with dedicated lanes and traffic signal priority would certainly boost ridership, and may bring the buses closer to breaking even. But that scenario would require political changes as well as new capital funds to adapt infrastructure.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Fending for itself</span></p><p>So far, our experiment&rsquo;s gone into the mechanics of what policy-makers and transit planners call the &ldquo;<a href="http://publictransport.about.com/od/Transit_Funding/a/The-Basics-Of-Transit-Funding.htm">farebox recovery ratio</a>,&rdquo; which compares the money collected from transit riders and operating costs. Again, CTA&rsquo;s recovery rate for its bus system was close to 39 percent in 2013. Why doesn&rsquo;t the agency try to break even?</p><p>Some of the answer has to do with the consequences Freemark laid out: If CTA hiked bus fares, it might actually lose riders. But another part of the answer is that the agency&rsquo;s not required to break even. The state of Illinois requires agencies under the Regional Transportation Authority &mdash; including CTA (bus and rail combined), Metra, and Pace &mdash; to collectively meet a 50 percent farebox recovery ratio, meaning that those agencies earn at least about half of their operating costs just through fares.</p><p>The farebox recovery ratio was originally established to prevent transit agencies from building more train and bus lines than the public would use.</p><p>Laurence Msall, President of the <a href="https://www.civicfed.org/">Chicago Civic Federation</a>, a nonpartisan research group that studies fiscal sustainability, says the recovery ratio mandate also ensured that the CTA, along with the other agencies, &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t running significant deficits, that it was collecting as much as it could in terms of the farebox, and that we weren&rsquo;t giving away the system.&rdquo;</p><p>In recent years, the region has consistently met or surpassed the state-mandated minimum, but on occasion there are calls for CTA to adopt plans to boost recovery rates. (Just one example: During the transit funding crisis of 2007, representative <a href="http://ilga.gov/house/transcripts/htrans95/09517001.pdf">Dave Winters of Rockford argued for fare increases and higher recovery rates</a> in Chicago-area transit agencies: &ldquo;The users of those services need to carry their own weight.&rdquo;)</p><p>As for the CTA&rsquo;s own take on the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; idea, agency spokeswoman Tammy Chase says &ldquo;that&rsquo;s not a calculation that we ever make or would. It&rsquo;s moot for us.&rdquo; She says the agency regards public transportation as a public service, &ldquo;not just providing customers service from Point A to Point B. It&rsquo;s broader than that; there&rsquo;s a broader economic good, for all of the public. It&rsquo;s more than a ride to us.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the agency does pay attention to basic laws of economics. For example, Chase says CTA determines bus routes based on the projected needs of riders: &ldquo;We pay attention to ridership demand, where the most riders are.&rdquo;</p><p>That translates into a metric the agency calls &ldquo;productivity,&rdquo; or the average number of passengers on a bus during one hour. &ldquo;You want to be ideally between 35 and 55 customers on a bus,&rdquo; Chase says. The CTA&rsquo;s most common buses seat around 35 passengers. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re getting to above 50 riders, some are standing. It&rsquo;s still a comfortable experience. If you&rsquo;re getting to around 70 people, that&rsquo;s a crowded bus.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/cta/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CTA%20productivity%20screen%20grab%20embed2.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p>Chase says CTA adjusts schedules, the number of buses and even the size of buses to hit a standard for normal service hours. The overarching goal, she says, is to have no passenger in the city wait more than 30 minutes before the next scheduled bus arrives. (Disruptions in these routes can often lead to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941" target="_blank">&quot;bus bunching,&quot; which is tough to tackle.</a>)</p><p>Adjustments only go so far, though, and the agency does keep run some low-productivity lines. Chase says those examples exemplify how the CTA emphasizes public service over bottom line considerations like breaking even. Several buses provide essential transportation, if only to relatively few people: say, to those who might have no alternative for getting to school, to work, a pharmacy or grocery store.</p><p>Interestingly, even the Civic Federation&rsquo;s Laurence Msall says the break even idea is &ldquo;not a reasonable expectation,&rdquo; and the government needs to subsidize public transit in some form.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a very strong argument to be made that if Chicago, if the State of Illinois was in better financial shape, that it should be investing more in the public transportation system,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We basically should be reducing even more the cost of riding the CTA to attract more riders or to expand the system.&rdquo;</p><p>Msall says the CTA has struggled with inefficiencies in the past, but right now, he thinks, the system can&rsquo;t get cheaper. It just costs too much to operate. It&rsquo;s worth the price, because CTA buses earn their keep everyday by cutting rush hour traffic and improving air quality.</p><p>Chicagoan Sarah Erwin, who relies almost solely on the CTA system to get around, agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;If you could have really great public transportation, you wouldn&rsquo;t have to have as many cars,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t own a car. We specifically chose Lakeview where we can walk or get public transit or a Zipcar to where we need to go. So, it&rsquo;s vital to us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Fred Pineda got his doctorate at the University of Chicago in medical physics. Now he works at the university developing MRI technology. It makes sense that a science guy would ask such a numbers-heavy question. But Pineda, a native of Mexico City, also regularly rides the CTA, where he spends about two hours on his daily commute. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Christopher Johnson is an independent producer and reporter based in Chicago.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 Civic Federation says proposed Chicago budget a good step http://www.wbez.org/news/civic-federation-says-proposed-chicago-budget-good-step-113335 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/18651701188_aa83d388c8_k.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago-based government research group supports the city&#39;s proposed $7.8 billion budget with a property tax increase, but says more work is needed to stabilize finances long-term.</p><p>The Civic Federation <a href="https://www.civicfed.org/press-room/Chicago_FY2016analysis" target="_blank">released a report</a>&nbsp;Wednesday amid ongoing budget hearings.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-budget-political-risk-113034" target="_blank">incremental $543 million property tax increase</a> for police and fire pensions.</p><p>He&#39;s also asked for a $45 million for schools and other fees to narrow a budget gap.</p><p>Civic Federation President Laurence Msall says&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;must make more cost-cutting efforts and be more efficient. He suggests a review of public safety operations.</p><p>He&#39;s also pushing for details in how&nbsp;the city will address an upcoming pension payment and retiree health care costs. Chicago&nbsp;has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city and a budget shortfall.</p></p> Wed, 14 Oct 2015 11:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/civic-federation-says-proposed-chicago-budget-good-step-113335 Morning Shift: A local connection to the crisis in Ukraine http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-04/morning-shift-local-connection-crisis-ukraine-109806 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Ukraine Flickr Vladimir Yaitskiy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at a local synagogue&#39;s connection to upheaval in Ukraine and how it is affecting the country&#39;s Jewish population. Plus, surprising facts about who colon cancer is affecting. And, a performance from Chicago&#39;s Eighth Blackbird.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-local-connection-to-the-crisis-in/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-local-connection-to-the-crisis-in.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-local-connection-to-the-crisis-in" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: A local connection to the crisis in Ukraine" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-04/morning-shift-local-connection-crisis-ukraine-109806 Budget watchdog blasts CPS for silence on pension reform http://www.wbez.org/news/budget-watchdog-blasts-cps-silence-pension-reform-108488 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 7.15.24 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A budget watchdog group is calling out Chicago Public Schools for not being more proactive with getting pension reform passed in Springfield.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not enough for the district to say, &lsquo;Springfield needs to act on pension reform,&rsquo; although that would have been an improvement from what we&rsquo;ve heard so far, which has been silence,&rdquo; said Laurence Msall, president of the nonpartisan government watchdog <a href="http://www.civicfed.org/">Civic Federation</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The Civic Federation released an 83-page analysis of the school district&rsquo;s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014 that argues the district is again taking a short-term approach to a long-term problem. The budget analysis suggests CPS should develop and advocate its own pension reform proposal, not just push for another pension holiday. The report also pushes for an increase in employee retirement contributions.</p><p>District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district supports &ldquo;reforms similar to those in SB1,&rdquo; referring to House Speaker Mike Madigan&rsquo;s attempt at pension reform. The bill proposed cutting cost of living increases, raising the retirement age and increasing employee contributions.</p><p>&ldquo;We will continue to rigorously push for pension reform as we did last session and hope that union leadership will come to the table willing to support the kinds of reforms necessary to provide significant financial relief for our schools,&rdquo; Carroll said in an e-mailed statement.</p><div><p>CPS <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-budget-includes-68-million-classroom-cuts-108177">released a budget last month</a> that included $68 million in cuts to classrooms and, in an eyebrow-raising move, drew down almost $700 million from reserves, a fund the district drained to zero last year, as well. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed budget next Wednesday.</p><p>In the analysis, Msall urged the district to publish more personnel data, require consistent financial reporting from the city&rsquo;s privately operated charter schools and give the public more time to review the proposal before holding hearings. This year, the proposed budget came out six working days before the first hearing. Msall suggested at least 10 days.</p><p>The full report is embedded below.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/162043428/Civic-Federation-Analysis-CPS-FY2014-Budget" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Civic Federation Analysis CPS FY2014 Budget on Scribd">Civic Federation Analysis CPS FY2014 Budget</a> by <a href="http://www.scribd.com/WBEZ915" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Chicago Public Media's profile on Scribd">Chicago Public Media</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.772922022279349" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="826" id="doc_59739" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/162043428/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-1jvt2tjl4gp58x554epj&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="620"></iframe></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 22 Aug 2013 07:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/budget-watchdog-blasts-cps-silence-pension-reform-108488 New report shows Illinois' finances could go from bad to worse http://www.wbez.org/news/new-report-shows-illinois-finances-could-go-bad-worse-105715 <p><p>A new report projects Illinois&rsquo; state budget will go from bad to worse if legislators don&rsquo;t address some key issues. If things stay as they are, Illinois can expect to see more money devoted to rising pension costs and more bills go unpaid, according to a new report by The Civic Federation, a financial watchdog group.</p><p>The report says pension contributions are eating up money for other essential government programs and will go from $5 billion this fiscal year to $7 billion five years from now.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois is in a horrible financial situation,&rdquo; said The Civic Federation&rsquo;s Laurence Msall. &ldquo;It is continuing to get worse and we&rsquo;re at the breaking point where core government services will not be able to be funded if we are going to maintain the existing pension structure.&rdquo;</p><p>Legislative leaders have not been able to agree on the best way to pay for state employees&rsquo; pensions. They have disagreed on everything from which plan is considered to save the most money, to the legality of certain proposals, since the state constitution says a pension cannot be &ldquo;diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>The Civic Federation&rsquo;s report says another factor why the state is expected to continue to struggle financially is the personal income tax rate. Gov. Quinn raised it from three percent to five percent two years ago, but the rate is scheduled to go down in 2015. Corporate taxes were also raised to seven percent. Those are also scheduled to be cut in 2015.</p><p>The decision to keep the income tax rate where it is or cut it is expected to be a big part of next year&rsquo;s governor&rsquo;s race.</p><p>&ldquo;We might not be able to make it to 2015 if the state doesn&rsquo;t address the pension crisis and reduce that $97 billion in unfunded liability,&rdquo; Msall said.</p><p>Msall&rsquo;s report also details the consequences of the state&rsquo;s financial problems. Illinois is expected to have a backlog of unpaid bills owed to vendors of $21.7 billion in five years if the pensions stay where they are and the tax rates are cut. The state has $7.8 billion in unpaid bills in fiscal year 2013.</p><p>Quinn is scheduled to give his budget address next week.</p></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-report-shows-illinois-finances-could-go-bad-worse-105715 Civic Federation approves of city's 2013 budget http://www.wbez.org/news/civic-federation-approves-citys-2013-budget-103581 <p><p>Chicago is moving in the right direction with its proposed 2013 budget. That&rsquo;s according to the Civic Federation, a 118 year old nonpartisan budget watchdog group.<br /><br />Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said Mayor Rahm Emanuel is showing restraint by not raising property taxes, eliminating the employee head tax ahead of schedule and allowing seven TIF districts to expire. Msall also noted Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s decision to eliminate 275 city jobs.<br /><br />But the Civic Federation still has concerns about the city&rsquo;s financial situation.<br /><br />Msall said the city still relies too heavily on one-time revenue sources. According to the Civic Federation&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.civicfed.org/CityofChicago_FY13BudgetAnalysis">report</a>, about $47 million of the 2013 budget comes from sources like declaring TIF surpluses and restructuring existing debt to take advantage of lower interest rates.<br /><br />The Civic Federation is also recommending the city leave more money aside for unforeseen costs, like the recent court decision in the firefighter discrimination lawsuit.<br /><br />But Msall said the elephant in the room is still pensions for city employees.<br /><br />&ldquo;Every Chicagoan is on the hook for approximately $7,000 per man woman and child just in pension promises, and as a result, everybody is going to have to pay more and receive less,&rdquo; Msall said.<br /><br />During his testimony to aldermen on Wednesday, Msall said state and local legislators are to blame for underfunding their pension systems in the past.<br /><br />Chicago&rsquo;s pension systems are short by about $16.7 billion.</p></p> Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/civic-federation-approves-citys-2013-budget-103581 Board to vote on 2012 CTA budget http://www.wbez.org/story/board-vote-2012-cta-budget-94043 <p><p>The Chicago Transit Authority's board of directors is scheduled to vote on the agency's $1.24 billion proposed budget on Tuesday.</p><p>Under the proposed budget, CTA President Forrest Claypool hopes to close the agency's $277 million deficit next year and avoid fare hikes or service cuts in large part by re-negotiating union contracts.</p><p>On Monday, budget watchdog group The Civic Federation released a statement supporting the budget plan. President Laurence Msall said changing the labor rules is the most reasonable way the CTA can balance its budget.</p><p>"These are enormously inefficient rules that need to be eliminated," said Msall. "The riders of the CTA are having a difficult time paying their own bills and maintaining their jobs. And to go to a fair increase at this time would be very difficult."</p><p>The Civic Federation warns if CTA can't get the savings from union negotiations, it will have to raise fares or cut services.</p><p>Union leaders have said the estimated savings from those negotiations are exaggerated.</p></p> Mon, 14 Nov 2011 23:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/board-vote-2012-cta-budget-94043 County won't charge unincorporated areas for policing yet http://www.wbez.org/story/county-wont-charge-unincorporated-areas-policing-yet-93775 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-04/Preckwinkle police task force.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>After much criticism, the Cook County Board President is backing off a controversial push to tax unincorporated residents for police services. Instead, Toni Preckwinkle announced Friday she's creating a task force to examine other options.&nbsp;</p><p>"Our effort is to figure out how we're going to deal on a case by case basis with the unincorporated parts of this county and to come up with a plan that we can incorporate into next year's budget," Preckwinkle said.</p><p>Solutions include the creation of special service areas, contracting for services with adjacent municipalities or incorporation.</p><p>Two percent of Cook County's residents live in unincorporated areas. But charging them for police services could net up to $11 million dollars.</p><p>While that's not much when sized against the $315 million dollar shortfall the county faces heading into 2012, the Civic Federation's Laurence Msall said this task force may be the starting point for recovering even more money.</p><p>Msall is one of 13 members on the new task force and cites <a href="http://civicfed.org/sites/default/files/CookCountyModernizationReport.pdf">a study</a> his organization released last year on modernizing Cook County.</p><p>"The magnitude we've been able to identify in our 2010 study was about $70 million dollars of county expenses can be drawn to providing the broad municipal services," Msall said.</p><p>Beyond police protection, he said that includes the inspectors the county provides to maintain zoning, liquor control and animal control.</p><p>Msall said there are myriad ways to solve the county's problem of unincorporated areas receiving free services by default, and he's not ruling out a push for new legislation.</p><p>Current law does not allow the county to force unincorporated areas to incorporate.</p></p> Fri, 04 Nov 2011 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/county-wont-charge-unincorporated-areas-policing-yet-93775 Report finds Chicago's charter schools 'in good fiscal health' http://www.wbez.org/story/report-finds-chicagos-charter-schools-good-fiscal-health-92794 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100914_llutton_1937260_Stat_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>A new report out Tuesday shows Chicago's Charter schools are in good financial shape. But the Civic Federation, a non-partisan budget watchdog group, finds there are some concerns.</p><p>The group awarded Chicago's charter schools a B+ 2007 and B in 2008 for meeting key standards of fiscal accountability. But its 170-page report also found threats to long-term fiscal sustainability due to declining budgets.</p><p>Charter schools aren't subject to the same legal and school board requirements as Chicago's public schools. So the Civic Federation says it couldn't conclusively measure every indicator because every Charter reports data in its own way.</p><p>The group's key recommendation is for charters to standardize their reporting data.<br> <br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Oct 2011 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/report-finds-chicagos-charter-schools-good-fiscal-health-92794 New report: CPS faces "enormous budget gaps" http://www.wbez.org/story/new-report-cps-faces-enormous-budget-gaps-90827 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-19/Civic Federation Report.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools 2012 budget is acceptable, but only for the short term. That's according to a report released by the Civic Federation on Monday.</p><p>The checkbook that Chicago Public Schools has to balance is like any of ours, but far bigger and far scarier.&nbsp; Laurence Msall, President of the Civic Federation said, "It is in a very dire situation."</p><p>The Federation's 82-page analysis of next year's CPS budget endorses some painful decisions - like denying teachers a four percent cost of living increase and raising property taxes. It says such decisions are in part necessary to maintain class size.</p><p>Despite these hand-wringing choices, Msall said, "This is a good budget and a good short-term plan for Chicago Public Schools. It is not the long-term plan that they need in order to get through the next three to five years."</p><p>Looking ahead, the Federation report uses phrases like "fiscal calamity in the very near future." Some of the highlighted causes include a broken pension system that may be beyond repair, and the financial instability of the state of Illinois as a whole.</p><p>The Federation is urging CPS leadership to start planning for the widening future budget shortfall now. In a press release, Msall stated, "If nothing is done, the pain and controversy of the FY2012 budget will seem mild in comparison to the massive cuts in personnel and services that will be necessary to balance the budget in FY2014."</p></p> Mon, 22 Aug 2011 11:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-report-cps-faces-enormous-budget-gaps-90827