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Emanuel to Unveil First Budget; Empty Out Your Wallet and Sacrifice

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 12, 2011 1:15PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to unveil his first budget today and, while he maintained his promise to not raise property taxes in order to balance it, Chicagoans will be paying more in fines, fees and other taxes once the debate over the budget is done.

Emanuel listed some of the fees and tax hikes in a press release sent to media last night. Among the increases are an increase in the hotel tax to 4.5 percent, which Emanuel said will put Chicago's hotel tax rate on a level with New York and Los Angeles while helping to boost tourism. With area hotels expected to see a 5-7 percent increase in occupancies from next year's NATO and G8 summits, and increased convention business, this increase should slowly fill the city coffers.

Another fee proposed by Emanuel is a congestion fee he hopes will encourage the use of public transportation, finance the rehabilitation of downtown "L" stations and build a new bus rapid transit system downtown. A congestion fee has been promoted by City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

In a reversal, Emanuel will declare a TIF surplus of 20 percent of uncommitted funds to help balance the budget. He also declared the city will move to a grid system for garbage collection sooner rather than later.

Library hours will be cut back at a time when other cities are closing library branches. One of the bigger bombshells announced will be the closing of three police stations -- Wood, Belmont and Prairie -- in addition to merging Police and Fire headquarters in the same building at 35th and Michigan. 500 jobs will be cut and another 776 vacant positions will be eliminated.

Emanuel is hoping the combination in cuts and fees will eliminate a projected $636 million budget deficit. the cuts and increases announced would save $146 million, if left alone.