CITY HALL — The City Council approved a balanced $8.7 billion 2014 budget over little opposition Tuesday.
Concluding a month-long process, aldermen approved a budget much like the one Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted in October, but for a few revisions such as a reduced hike in the cigarette tax and increased fines for parking violations.
The budget passed by a vote of 45-5.
''Thank you for listening to the aldermen and compromising," said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) during the budget debate.
"I was prepared to vote no," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), citing the original 75-cents-a-pack hike in the cigarette. Yet, with that increase lowered to 50 cents a pack, it won her support.
Emanuel boasted for the third straight year that he held the line on any increase in property, sales or gas taxes, a detail emphasized by Ald. Ray Suarez (31st), who also pointed to the $49 million in surplus Tax Increment Finance funds put back into the budget. "This budget makes sense," Suarez concluded.
However, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District — whose boards are both appointed by the mayor — have either hiked or proposed property tax hikes this year.
Emanuel said the city is "cutting where we need to and investing where we must," with no "smoke and mirrors."
"I struggle with the need for more police," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who also called for more scattered-site government-subsidized housing and less of a concentration in Uptown. "It's not perfect, but no budget is," Cappleman said, announcing his support.
Ald. James Balcer (11th), head of the Public Safety Committee, cited the 742 new police cadets graduated this year, contributing to a 24 percent drop in shootings and a 20 percent drop in murders, down 80 from last year. While acknowledging that the Chicago Police Department was not adding officers but keeping up with attrition, Balcer too supported the budget.
Yet Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) decried the lost opportunity to hire more police officers, tabled Monday in the final Budget Committee meeting. "These hires are needed, and they are critical," Fioretti said. "Our current force does not have the resources, the personnel, to keep our streets as safe as we'd like." So Fioretti announced his intention to vote against the budget, as he did last year.
"It was not buried, just put on hold," said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the Budget Committee, who promised to revisit the issue.
Fioretti was the only alderman to speak out against the budget on the council floor Tuesday. Others voting no included Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th). That was two more than last year, when Fioretti, Waguespack and Arena voted against the budget.