Chicago Alderman Wednesday passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $7.8 billion budget that includes a massive property tax hike as well as a variety of other taxes all aimed at addressing the city’s underfunded pension system.
The budget, which includes an incremental $543 million property tax increase, a separate $45 million property tax hike for schools, a $9.50 per household garbage collection charge and other various fees, was passed by a 35-15 vote. Aldermen hope the new revenue will help reign in city finances.
“There is no issue we don’t face in this city; [the budget] has been in the making for years,” said Ald. George Cardenas (12th).
“It’s a vote that’s a game changer for all of us.”
Emanuel said his plan is a step toward righting bad financial practices of the past, including questionable borrowing. Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city, according to the Associated Press.
Bill Anderson, a resident of the 33rd Ward, was one of many concerned citizens who lined up outside of the packed city council chambers.
“My taxes are being increased and I would like to see how this operation works,” Anderson said.
“I pay my taxes and other people get away with low fines and no one goes after them.”
Before the budget vote, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said it would be difficult to vote for the budget proposal but understands its necessity.
“No one wants to make hard choices, but it has to be done,” Dowell said. “If raising property tax is our last resort then I cast my vote as a yes.”
Some aldermen opposed the budget and were vocal about the implications of the budget for their constituents.
“It’s a sad day when we can’t look at cutting our own six-figure salaries,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). “It’s a sad day when we can’t look at meaningful TIF (Tax Increment Financing) reform,” he said, referring to the tax program designed to help struggling neighborhoods.
“It’s easy to go to those with the least power and say, ‘Give me more out of your pocket.’”
Ald. David Moore (17th) also voted against the budget, saying he must listen to his constituents when they look at him and say, “don’t you go down there and vote for that garbage.”
“I have to stick with my residents over anybody, so my vote is no,” Moore said.
The new budget will take effect starting January 2016.