CITY HALL — The mayor has promised no gimmicks and no new property, sales or gas taxes in his 2014 budget, to be formally released Wednesday, but everything else seems on the table.
That includes stiffer fines for parking in the wrong places.
Budget officials said Tuesday the city will be hiking several parking fines:
• Illegal parking in a disabled spot will rise from $200 to $250;
• Fire-hydrant violations will go up from $100 to $110;
• Rush-hour parking violations will increase from $60 to $100;
• Street-cleaning violations will go up from $50 to $60;
• Parking of a recreational vehicle, truck, bus or taxi on a residential street will increase from $25 to $75; and
• The storage fee for a vehicle impounded for any reason will also double from $10 to $20 a day.
"The majority of these violations haven't been increased in more than a decade — and in one case, two decades," said Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn. "Despite the increases, the city hasn't kept up with the cost of inflation. Also, the city's current tow storage fee is dramatically lower than other major cities."
Quinn said New York City also charges $20 a day for storage, and Los Angeles charges $33 a day plus a $100 release fee. She added that the hike in storage fees alone with raise $1.8 million.
"There will not be any one-year gimmicks," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said as he tries to close an estimated $339 million budget shortfall. He has ruled out drawing on the city's so-called rainy-day fund, a favorite budget tactic of his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Yet he's confirmed the city will also move to hike the tax on cigarettes by 75 cents a pack, in part to pay for enrolling children in Medicaid and to expand a vision program for Chicago Public Schools students.
"I have a long history of believing in a tax on cigarettes to provide health care for others," Emanuel said in a Monday news conference.
Aldermen were briefed on the budget Tuesday, but it still left key details for Emanuel's unveiling Wednesday.
"They won't give up any hard numbers yet," said Ald. John Arena (45th). "All we saw was a 10-slide presentation with some rough numbers."
Yet Emanuel plans to close the shortfall, in part, through $60 million in speed cameras, the same budgeted for red-light cameras, and rosier predictions about revenue from a rebounding economy.
"We're doing better on the real-estate-transfer tax. Hotel taxes are up," Arena said. "We're doing about 5 percent better than last year overall."
City budget officials have also said the mayor will be slicing an exemption to the amusement tax, so that cable-television taxes will rise from 4 to 6 percent — a fee assessed to the cable firm, but usually passed on to the customer. That exemption in the amusement tax was previously allowed cable firms because the city can't tax satellite TV providers in the same manner due to federal rulings.
All told, along with higher zoning fees for large construction projects and a nuisance fee for filing zoning applications in person, the hikes announced by the Emanuel administration so far are expected to add $33 million in revenue, with more to come Wednesday. The additional $100 million projected for revenue will go far to make up the deficit.
"What I'm looking for is what do we put our money toward?" Arena said. "We're talking about treading water in terms of police.
"That's my concern," Arena added. "That was one of the reasons I wasn't supportive of the budget last year. I didn't think they put enough manpower toward the crime problem." He said the $60 million spent on police overtime the first half of the year, as stated in the budget briefings, was testimony to that. "And we're still the murder capital of the United States."
Arena also cited the chaos that has resulted from the city's closing of mental-health facilities and said he'll press the Department of Human Services on that during budget hearings. "What's their plan for getting back on track there?" Arena said.
"We need to figure out where's the money going and what are the priorities we set here," he added.