Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is leaving office next year, but the effects of his policies will linger well into his successor’s administration.
Emanuel delivered his final spending plan Wednesday, a move that starts a budget approval process that will unfold over the coming weeks. The final product could change between now and when the City Council approves it.
Here are five things to know about the mayor’s budget proposal:
1.) The election-year spending plan Emanuel is pushing avoids asking aldermen to approve broad tax and fee increases. The mayor’s proposal relies on cost-cutting, property tax district surpluses and personnel savings to get through the next fiscal year, which starts Jan. 1.
But the city still faces financial pressures, including the multibillion-dollar question of how the city will cover its looming public pension costs. Chicago’s annual required pension contributions are expected to grow by more than $900 million between 2019 and 2023. Emanuel administration officials have considered a plan in which the city would issue bonds at relatively low interest rates and use the money to reduce its $28 billion in pension debt. The pension funds would invest the bond proceeds and ideally earn returns that outpace the interest costs.
Last week, Emanuel told the Tribune he would take steps to address unfunded pensions after the 2019 budget gets passed.
2.) Taxes will still go up in 2019 because aldermen voted to raise them in prior budget votes. Those hikes include a $63 million increase in the property tax, the last of four to boost police and fire pension funding. Water and sewer taxes, which are being used to help the municipal workers pension fund, also will increase from $1.28 per 1,000 gallons used to $2.01 per 1,000. The increase will cost the median household with metered water use $39.05 more in 2019, according to City Hall, while the median unmetered water bill will see a $79.94 bump. Also, Uber and Lyft riders will have to pay another nickel per ride starting next year.
READ MORE: Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivers his final budget address for Chicago »
3.) There are new programs and spending in the budget proposal, including additional funding to pay for the Chicago Police Department consent decree, youth mentoring, new police technology and other programs.
The budget plan calls for city spending on youth programs, including mentoring, preventive dental care for Chicago Public Schools students and summer jobs for kids.
Emanuel also called for spending to address the proposed consent decree, which is aimed at overhauling the city’s Police Department. Among other things, the budget calls for $12.9 million for staffing and $12.8 million for other costs. That money would cover increased officer training and resources, among other things.
4.) While the city’s Police and Fire departments are negotiating a new contract, Emanuel’s 2019 budget proposal does not include money to cover additional expenses such as back pay and wage and benefit increases. It is uncertain whether Emanuel will finalize those pacts before he leaves office in May or if it will be left up to the city’s next mayor.
5.) There’s also money in the budget for overhauling the city’s streetlights to LED. Emanuel calls for $1.3 million to pay for new garbage and recycling cans and $500,000 on rat control. The plan also calls for $500,000 for planting new trees.
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