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With Tax Hikes Behind Them, Aldermen Set To Approve Funds To Hire More Cops

By Heather Cherone | November 14, 2016 5:35am
 Officers stand at a Chicago Police Department promotion ceremony.
Officers stand at a Chicago Police Department promotion ceremony.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

CITY HALL — As Chicago aldermen prepare to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $8.2 billion 2017 spending plan, many are breathing a sigh of relief.

While contentious issues remain, the budget is expected to sail through the City Council on Wednesday, propelled by a series of tax hikes approved in the last year that local leaders contend have put the city on track to eliminate its structural deficit and place its employee pension funds on firmer ground.

Through weeks of budget and committee hearings, a majority of aldermen said they supported the plan that would require Chicagoans to pay 7 cents for every plastic bag they take home filled with groceries, add 752 new parking meters and hike parking fees at city airports.

Hear Heather talk about where all the new tax money is going.

The budget includes $60 million to hire 250 new officers, 92 new field-training officers, 100 new detectives, 37 new sergeants and 50 new lieutenants charged with figuring out a way to put an end to more than 3,500 shootings and nearly 700 homicides in 2016.

In total, the department is set to grow by a total of 970 positions, with 266 police officers, 100 detectives and 75 sergeants hired next year.

In addition to stopping gang and gun violence, those officers and police officials will also be charged with repairing the breach between the department and residents, spotlighted by the aftermath of the release of dashcam video of the police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

 

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was fired by the department, has been charged with murder for McDonald's death.

The budget also includes $36 million spread over three years on mentoring for 7,200 junior high school and high school boys enrolled in city schools. Much of the money is earmarked for Becoming A Man, a group that has been lauded by President Barack Obama.

While the 2016 Chicago budget included the largest property tax hike in Chicago history — $589 million over four years to fill the city's massive deficit and shore up pensions for police officers and firefighters — the 2017 spending plan does not raise sales or property taxes.

But because of the 2016 tax hike, the owner of a $250,000 home will likely see his or her property tax bill rise $348 next year, according to city data.

In addition, the council voted in September to approve a 30 percent increase in the water and sewer tax to fund pensions for non-police or fire department city employees, sparing the aldermen from having to make another politically perilous budget vote.

Once the water and sewer tax hike is phased in during the next four years, the average homeowner will pay $226 more a year, according to city estimates.

Plastic Bag Fee

The plastic-bag fee would add $9.2 million to the city's coffers and push Chicagoans to bring a reusable tote and avoid sending the bags to landfills.

A ban on single-use, thin plastic bags approved by the council in 2014 is largely considered a failure.

The city would get a nickel from the sale of each bag, with the store owner getting the other two cents.

Ticket Resale Tax Hike

Chicagoans would also pay a higher tax to sell tickets for concerts, special events and games on the secondary market.

Instead of a 9 percent tax on the face-value price of the ticket, resellers will pay a 3.5 percent tax on the price at which the ticket sells.

The move comes after the resale market exploded for tickets to the musical "Hamilton" as well for the Cubs victorious push to the World Series.

More Meters — And They Will Be More Expensive Near Wrigley Field

The spending plans also calls for 752 new parking meters — 153 in the Loop, with the rest spread throughout the city.

Drivers will also pay $2 more to park at a meter near Wrigley Field starting two hours before Chicago Cubs games and other special events at the Friendly Confines and ending one hour afterward.

Those efforts will generate $5.4 million, but it won't directly benefit the city. Instead, it will be used to offset the $12 million the city pays every year to the company that leases the city's meter system for spots that are out of service.

The spending plan also puts an end to free parking in loading zones in the 2nd, 27th and 42nd wards. It would cost $14 to park for an hour and add $13 million to $18 million to the city's bottom line every year.

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