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2018 Chicago Budget: You'll Pay More For Uber & Phones But Get More Police

By Heather Cherone | October 18, 2017 10:42am | Updated on October 19, 2017 11:44am
"The days of fiscal smoke and mirrors are behind us," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday detailed his $8.6 billion 2018 spending plan, declaring that the city is "on firmer financial footing than we have been in many years."

"The days of fiscal smoke and mirrors are behind us," Emanuel said in unveiling his eighth budget, which spends approximately $289 million more than this year's budget.

Emanuel, who is widely expected to run for a third term as mayor, spent approximately 40 minutes sketching a highlight reel of the past year, stopping to acknowledge several people, including Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who returned to duty Wednesday after a kidney transplant.

Emanuel faced a $635.7 million gap after taking over from former Mayor Richard M. Daley. This year, officials pegged the deficit at $114 million — although that shortfall did not include a number of big-ticket items, including the second and final phase of an effort to add 970 officers to the Chicago Police Department.

RELATED: City Budget Winners and Losers: See Dept. Funding Changes Under Rahm

The stability touted by Emanuel is largely due to several massive tax increases, including the largest property tax increase in Chicago's history — approved in 2015 — and a 30 percent increase in the water and sewer tax — approved in 2016.

The city is also getting more breathing room by refinancing $2.7 billion in debt under a new state law that budget officials said will save $94 million this year.

No longer will the city borrow money to pay off other debt, which Emanuel likened to using a "MasterCard to pay off the Visa bills."

Emanuel also lauded the new school-funding bill that sent $450 million to the Chicago Public Schools by changing the way schools are funded throughout Illinois.

"The dawn of a new day for Chicago students has just begun," Emanuel said.

RELATED: Progressives Take Aim at Budget Plan While Others Say It Is A No Brainer

Emanuel also pointed to newly toughened penalties for those convicted of multiple gun crimes, saying it will help reduce the surge of violence on Chicago's South and West sides.

"We simply cannot rest until every parent, in every neighborhood, is able to let their children go to the park, or play on the sidewalk, or sit on the front porch free from the fear of gunshots," Emanuel said.

Uber, Lyft to get more expensive

Emanuel touted his plan to raise taxes on Uber or Lyft rides by 29 percent next year as a "unique way" to fund improvements to CTA bus and train lines.

If approved by the City Council next month, the city will add 67 cents to the cost of every ride hailed with a service such as Uber or Lyft next year, up from the current charge of 52 cents per ride.

In 2019, that surcharge will rise another nickle to 72 cents — a 38 percent increase from 2017 rates, according to the mayor's proposal.

"To continue to build a modern transportation system that works for all Chicagoans we will increase the fees on ride share companies. And we are going to use those resources to make needed investments to modernize transportation in Chicago for every resident; whether you travel by car, train, bus or bike," Emanuel said. "We will be the first city to tap the ride share industry for resources to modernize our transportation system."

Get ready to pay more for cellphone service

Given the green light by legislation approved by state lawmakers, Emanuel will ask aldermen to hike taxes on cellphone bills and land lines by $1.10 per month per line. That will keep the laborers' pension fund out of the red, officials said.

That will free up money to "modernize 911 and 311," Emanuel said.

"Our systems were built for the days of landlines," the mayor added. "We will modernize them for the mobile, smartphone era."

That will generate approximately $26 million next year, officials said.

In 2014, the Council agreed to hike the city's telephone tax by 56 percent to help the same pension fund — adding $1.40 per month to the bills for every landline and cellphone in Chicago.

More money for schools

Emanuel is expected to send $88 million of city tax increment financing funds to CPS, which needs $80 million to pay for officers to patrol the schools, officials said.

CPS will use the remaining $8 million to expand after-school programs and the Safe Passage effort to help kids get to school safely.

Homeowners will pay more, too. The owner of a home worth $250,000 will pay $177 more next year in property taxes, which Emanuel has said is needed to "avert a train wreck."

Other budget highlights include:

Midsize Concerts Would Be Cheaper, But Big Shows Pricier Under Rahm Plan

$1 Million More To Fight Rats As Rodent Complaints Multiply

$24M Police Reform 'Down Payment' Includes 100 New Training Officers: Rahm