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You'll Pay More For Parking, Plastic Bags As 2017 Budget OK'd By Council

By Heather Cherone | November 16, 2016 11:23am | Updated on November 16, 2016 2:23pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2017 is was approved Wednesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2017 is was approved Wednesday.
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CITY HALL — With a series of massive tax hikes behind them, the City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $8.2 billion spending plan Wednesday without debate.

Unlike last year, the budget contains no major property tax or sales tax hikes, ensuring that it sailed through the council.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said while Wednesday's vote might have been easy, it was not easy getting to this point.

"We should be proud of the work we have done, but not take our foot off the pedal," Emanuel said after the vote.

The spending plan shows the city's commitment to investing in areas of the city where residents are "tilting toward despair," Emanuel said.

"It is another step toward putting our fiscal house in order," Emanuel said.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who shepherded the passage of the budget said while not perfect, the plan was "solid."

"It is the first budget that we have passed without the pension guillotine hanging over our head," Ervin said.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said the budget was "good for Chicago's future" and represents the triumph over the "most significant problems" facing Chicago in five years.

But because of a massive property tax hike included in the 2016 budget , 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.

Those tax hikes will fund pension accounts for city employees, which had been mired in red ink for years.

"Now, those pensions are on a path to solvency," Emanuel said.

Three aldermen voted against the ordinance that gives the city authority to collect the taxes and fees that fund its spending plan: Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

All three — who are members of the Progressive Reform Caucus — opposed the creation of the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund, touted by the mayor as one of a number of strategies his administration is using to restore "vibrancy" to commercial and retail areas of areas like Pullman and Englewood.

After the vote, Rosa said the fund amounted to "a blank check from Chicago taxpayers to financiers."

Munoz and Rosa said they voted no because there was no guarantee that the money from the fund would be used to invest in low-income neighborhoods.

"This is not good public policy," Rosa said.

The budget also includes:

More money for police officers

The spending plan 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.

Don't forget to bring your own bags to the grocery store

Shoppers will be charged 7 cents for every plastic bag as part of an effort to push Chicagoans to use a reusable tote at grocery stores and avoid sending the bags to landfills.

The fee is expected to add $9.2 million to the city's coffers and help pay for the new police personnel.

The measure is an attempt to be "environmentally friendly" while reducing the amount the city pays to send its trash to area landfills, Emanuel said

There will be more parking meters — and it will cost more to park 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 per hour 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.

More massive electronic billboards are on the way

The city's 20-year digital-billboard deal would be extended for four more yearsbecause there were unanticipated delays in erecting the signs due to weather and legal issues.

Two aldermen have called the deal a failure, and said they oppose its extension because the 100-foot tall advertisements have polluted Chicago neighborhoods and diminished residents' quality of life.

'Toughest In The Nation' Rules Designed To Curb Opiate Epidemic

The City Council is set to approve a measure that would require Chicago pharmaceutical representatives to be licensed in an effort to end what officials said is an epidemic of deaths from heroin and other opiates.

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