CITY HALL — Chicagoans who use coin-operated washing machines would get another kind of Laundromat Blues if a proposed increase in the city water and sewer tax is approved by the full City Council.
In testimony before a Council committee Thursday on the tax, which initially is expected to cost the average homeowner about $50 per year, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) raised concerns over the effect the hike would have on laundromat customers.
Austin said the effect would more dramatically affect African-American residents, who are more likely not to have access to a washing machine at home.
Paul Hansen, president of the Illinois Coin Laundry Association, confirmed that.
"Doing laundry is not a luxury," Hansen said. "Our clientele are pretty much low-income individuals."
Hansen estimated the tax hike would increase the cost of washing a load by 30 to 40 cents, and said that would have to be passed on to customers.
The association has complained that over the last several years the city has doubled the cost of water, though most laundromat owners tried not to raise prices.
The association also said that since most machines use quarters, there is no way to charge exactly the cost of the tax. Instead, laundromats will have to increase prices by 25-cent increments, charging more than the tax difference.
Hansen urged aldermen to exempt laundromats, or drop the matter entirely.
Neal Shapiro, owner of Bubbleland, 4748 W. Fullerton Ave., told the aldermen: “I think this proposed ordinance is a terrible mistake, and I would urge you all to vote no.”
The tax proposal was passed by the Council Finance Committee 26-6.
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