By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusdaer
Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the City Council earlier this week the city’s finances are stabilizing and Chicago’s financial outlook is better today than it was five years ago when he first became mayor. The 30-minute address in council chambers on Oct. 11 highlighted several areas and promised no new taxes. That is a relief for taxpayers who are still fuming over an increase in garbage and sewer fees last year, drivers who have seen an increase in city sticker prices and proposed taxes on bottled water and everything else the city could tax the last few years.
“It is a budget free of an immediate pension crisis, free of the black cloud of insolvency threatening the retirements of city employees and the financial future of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
But others are not as optimistic as the picture the Mayor painted. While the city has made some financial gains recently as indicated by both Fitch and S&P Global Ratings upgrading the city’s debt rating to stable from the previous negative last week, the average citizen is still bearing most of the financial crunch to live and work in Chicago.
“Mayor Emanuel continues his streak of asking working families to pay more while the wealthiest continue to not pay their fair share,” said Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Work Collaborative. This is not sustainable. Plastic bags are not going to generate the resources needed to address the economic and racial inequality driving so much of the violence in our communities. It is our hope that we can build on the release of additional TIF funds and win more substantial progressive revenue in the near future.”
Emanuel said since he took office he has reduced the city’s structural debt from $635 million in 2011 when he took office to $138 million in 2017. He also got big cheers from the gallery when he said he was able to do this without doing what his predecessor Mayor Richard Daley did, which was selling off city assets like the skyway and privatizing the city’s parking meters. The city is also for the first time in a long time paying into its reserve accounts.
“Five years ago, Chicago was on the financial brink. Today, Chicago is back on solid ground,” Emanuel said.
Patrick Brosnan, Executive Director of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council said some of the things the Mayor stated would be good for Chicago. But he said Chicago has a long way to become financially solvent for all parts of the city.
“The declared TIF surplus is a victory for Chicago’s families but we have to pass the Chicago
Public Education Revitalization (CPER) Ordinance to institutionalize the surplus process. We started this campaign in July, knowing that it would be a long and hard battle. While we acknowledge that some of the surplus is being redirected to schools, it’s only the start of our fight to win education equity in Chicago.”
The city plans to spend $1.9 billion on aviation, neighborhood, and water/sewer capital projects throughout the city in 2017. All funds for 2017 total $9.81 billion. It is an increase from $9.3 billion in 2016. The budget includes $8.22 billion of local funds and $1.59 billion of grant funding. The city’s corporate fund – which serves as the general fund – totals $3.72 billion.