Mayor Emanuel unveils 2017 budget to City Council

CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after late CPS contract negotiations Monday night he only got about four hours of sleep, but he was positive and excited about his latest budget, saying it’s the first time in his tenure the city is not facing an immediate pension crisis.

“This year, like every year since my first budget, we are putting money back into the rainy day fund. Put another way, we're saving for Chicago's future, not selling it short,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel’s 2017 $3.7 billion budget proposal does have a shortfall of about $137 million, but it's the smallest gap in nearly a decade. The mayor says this budget increases spending by about one percent, and brings the city out of a junk credit rating.

“The city is not completely out of the woods, but it is in much better shape than it was as recently as a year ago,” said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation.

For homeowners in the city, there is no new property tax increase in this budget, but you may recall last year the City approved a four-year graduated property tax hike to fund police and fire pensions.

It also revokes the plastic bag ban but institutes a new 7-cent disposable bag tax on paper and plastic. The proposed tax would generate nearly $13 million, $9 million to the City and the rest to merchants.

The mayor also wants to move forward on a $31 million plan to modernize the city's 311 program. Instead of calling by phone, the mobile 311 program would allow citizens to tweet and text the system for help reporting potholes, having streetlights fixed or removing graffiti.

$6 million of the dollars slated for youth programs will also be matched by the private sector to help pair more than 7,000 young men in neighborhoods with the highest homicide rates with a mentor.

The new budget sets aside $53 million for the Chicago police department to hire 500 officers in 2017, with 470 more coming on board the following year. Nearly half of those hires will be detectives. The mayor also wants to begin the search to build a new state-of-the-art police training center, fund the expansion of universal body cameras, and install gunshot sensing cameras that will alert officers to shootings as they happen in violent neighborhoods.

The mayor said the plan for more officers is free of an immediate pension crisis. That’s due in part to newly approved increases in water taxes and fees slated to pay for pension obligations, Msall said, in addition to an expected increase in sales tax revenue.

Emanuel said the recent property tax increase and other difficult financial decisions over the past five years have put Chicago's finances on the right track, but more work needs to be done to help the city build for the future.

Also among the proposals:

  • Replace 270,000 lights to LED bulbs
  • Charge more for parking near Wrigley Field
  • Replace free commercial loading zones downtown with $14 an hour paid parking
  • $64 million dollars for youth programs, including 2,000 more city jobs and 1,000 more spots in after school programs
  • Matching funds for local artists to create permanent art installations in all 50 wards.

City Council members will begin reviewing the budget in a series of hearings, the first of them this Monday at 10 a.m.

View the full budget on the City of Chicago website