UPDATE 3-Chicago approves Emanuel’s city budget, property tax increase

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago City Council Passes Largest Tax Increase in City History.

In his first sit-down interview about his forthcoming film, “Chi-raq,” director Spike Lee last week gave his side of the story on the controversial title and his encounters with city leaders. CHICAGO – Chicago’s City Council easily approved a budget plan Wednesday that includes a massive property tax hike and other fees to help close a shortfall and improve the city’s underfunded pension system, votes many aldermen called the most difficult of their political careers.Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $7.8 billion fiscal 2016 budget and a historic property tax increase to pay for public safety worker pensions easily cleared the city council on Wednesday.CHICAGO—The Chicago City Council passed a historic tax increase Wednesday to shore up the pension systems for police officers and firefighters, aiming to stabilize the troubled finances of the nation’s third-largest city. The uproar over the film’s name — including from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who asked Lee to retitle it — got Lee and the mayor “off on the wrong foot,” he told Chicago Magazine.

But the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins on Jan. 1 still faces uncertainties in the Illinois Legislature and supreme court that could impair the mayor’s plan to address the city’s $20 billion unfunded pension liability. The property-tax increase, which has been described as the largest in modern history, would raise an additional $543 million phased in over four years. By a 36-14 vote, aldermen signed off on a $7.8 billion budget plan for 2016, after only a few minor changes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s original proposal.

The budget includes $588 million in property tax increases over the next four years; with $543 million going to police and fire pensions, and $45 million going toward public school construction. The property-tax rise was part of the larger Chicago city budget, which included additional revenue increases such as expanded trash fees and added taxi and ride-sharing fees. He pointed out that during roughly six weeks of filming on the South and West sides, hundreds of people in Chicago were wounded by gunfire. “What I didn’t like was him trying to paint me as this villain.

If Chicago cannot get its finances under control, the third- largest U.S. city faces further downgrades by credit rating agencies, making it more expensive to raise funds through bond sales. The problems have worsened over the years the city didn’t contribute enough to pension funds and continued questionable borrowing tactics, some of which continued into Emanuel’s tenure.

Emanuel who has faced a deteriorating fiscal picture here, including Moody’s Investors Service cutting Chicago’s credit rating to junk earlier this year. Budget Committee Chair Carrie Austin (34th) kicked off the debate urging a yes vote by saying the budget plan puts the city back on a responsible path, and still paves streets and trims trees. “We have to do the responsible thing. Standard & Poor’s said Chicago’s financial problems remain “substantial,” and that given the pension uncertainties, it expects the city to have contingency plans. “In our view, the extent of the city’s structural imbalance, when factoring in required pension contributions, will take multiple years to rectify,” S&P said in a statement.

Emanuel has pushed to double a homeowners’ exemption from $7,000 to $14,000, or the amount cut from the home’s assessed value before taxes are calculated. Many aldermen feared that replacing the 73 call takers who are familiar with the city with employees who aren’t from Chicago would lead to botched city services, and aldermen taking the blame. The mayor is also pushing the state legislature for a bill to shield residential properties valued at $250,000 or less from the tax hike, although the city could consider a rebate program if that measure is not enacted. Bruce Rauner to phase in a sharp rise in payments due to the police and firefighter pension systems and an infusion of hundreds of millions in state dollars for city schools in the face of a projected shortfall.

The budget also opens the door for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to begin picking up customers at the city’s airports, Navy Pier, and McCormick Place, over the objections of the taxi industry, which has long complained it faces more strict regulation than ride-share competitors. The play recounts a woman’s mission to deny sex to all men until the Peloponnesian War ends: The women of Greece embark on a sex strike to encourage peace negotiations. While some aldermen wanted ride-sharing drivers to have to obtain chauffeur licenses in exchange for doing business at O’Hare and Midway, the mayor agreed to charge them a higher per-ride fee, which will go up to 52 cents from the current 30 cents. Taxi drivers also would get a long-sought fare increase, and some of the money raised by the ride-sharing fees would be used to help cab drivers pay for their chauffeur licenses. The revenue package also includes higher fees for business owners who fail to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks outside their buildings, increased fines for drivers who don’t have insurance, and higher booting fees.

Alderman Anthony Napolitano, who is a firefighter and northwest side alderman, said he’d rather have been in a burning basement than take up such a controversial idea. Others questioned if Emanuel’s administration had made enough efforts to cut spending and if the monthly garbage fee — a first for city homeowners — was necessary. Alderman Jason Ervin, whose West Side ward includes impoverished areas, called it “regressive fee that burdens our poor residents the most” even with a cap until 2019.

The best thing government can do is stay out of his way.” Several aldermen, including Will Burns, 4th, initially wanted to deny Lee film tax credits that are available to most filmmakers. To give Lee perspective, Pfleger connected him with gang members, reformed gang members, peace-driven organizations and mothers who lost children to gun violence.

Lee’s co-writer, Kansas filmmaker Kevin Willmott, told The Kansas City Star that interviewing mothers of victims of gang violence was “mind-blowing.” “It’s disturbing.

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