Wednesday, November 16, 2011

City Budget Passes Today, Unanimously

Here's what 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman has to say about this year's budget.

"This morning the City Council voted to pass and I supported the 2012 Chicago Budget.  When the Mayor announced the proposed budget on October 12, 2011, I sent out an email detailing the impact of this budget on our community and City.  Click here to view that email.  As I mentioned on October 12, approving the budget is a process, and one in which I greatly value your input.  I received thoughtful feedback and questions from many of you, and I appreciate you taking the time to email, call or write my office.

A major priority of the 2012 Budget is to ensure that the City of Chicago is on sound financial footing moving forward. Our City has operated beyond its means for many years. In our current economic climate, this is no longer an option. To arrive at a more sustainable financial future, we had to make hard decisions and compromises. Some of these I agreed with; some I did not. Overall, the 2012 Budget seeks to increase efficiencies while investing in our City's future. For example, the new system of grid-based garbage collection will save the City money and result in quicker and better collection. A number of efficiencies will be implemented including department mergers and consolidations. For example, the Department of Finance and Revenue is undergoing a merger. There are still many issues that remain; the City's ongoing pension obligations are an example. I will remain steadfast in identifying long-term revenue solutions that do not compromise our community's and City's quality of life and increase investment in our future, without increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Below you will find an outline of the changes proposed and accepted in the 2012 Budget; notable highlights from the departmental budget hearings; and my position on a number of these changes. Please contact me at or 773-784-5277 with any additional questions or feedback.
  • Office of Budget and Management.  Year after year over the past decade, the annual budget did not cover expenses.  The Office of Budget and Management estimated a projected shortfall of $635.7 million for 2012.  The 2012 budget does not contain an increase in sales, utility or property taxes.  It does not propose a new city income tax; and it cuts in half the employee head tax.  The reforms and efficiencies put forth in the proposed budget eliminate two-thirds of the deficit the City is facing at a total of $417 million.
  • Condo Refuse Rebate.  The original 2012 budget proposal called for a complete elimination of the condo refuse rebate. Through our collective efforts, we were able to restore funding for the Condo Refuse Rebate which will enable a $50 rebate for calendar year 2012. There will be an additional effort to pay down rebates that are owed by the City to condominium owners. All rebates applicable to 2012 will be $50, and rebates applicable to years 2013-2015 will be $25. The work is not over and it will remain my priority to secure funding for this program for the long-term I have been working with my colleagues to restore full as much funding as possible to this program.
  • Chicago Public Libraries.  The original proposed budget included cuts to Chicago Public Libraries totaling $7 million. $3.3 million has been restored to the library budget to allow for a full six-day-a-week schedule when school is out, during the summer months and over holiday breaks, providing children with more library access when they are away from school. 100 of the planned library layoffs will be restored. However, I am still very concerned about the operational effect this funding cut will have on our library system. I am committed to fighting for full funding restoration. Our community will receive a brand new library in 2013 and I will stay committed to seeing that this library is fully staffed, functional, and resourceful for those that utilize it.
  • TIF Reform.  As a new policy, the City intends to declare surpluses in TIF funds across the City every year. The City will declare a surplus of 20% of the uncommitted funds in all eligible districts. These dollars will return to the original taxing bodies, including CPS and Libraries. $12 million out of this surplus will go back to the City corporate budget; $30 million will go to Chicago Public Schools. TIF districts continue to act as an economic development tool throughout our City. It is my priority to utilize TIF dollars to leverage development desired by the community. Reducing TIF funds will not have a negative impact on development projects slated for our community.
  • Water Rate.  The budget will increase the water rate, intending to use those additional funds for capital improvements. The increase would total approximately 25% in the next fiscal year, with 15% increases in the following three years. The water rate increase will have a direct positive impact on improving our City's outdated infrastructure; and I will work closely with the Water Department to improve local infrastructure. I will continue working with the SaveMeter program to provide an efficient water meter for every residence in the 48th Ward.
  • City Stickers.  It was originally proposed to increase the fee for heavier vehicles but now all vehicles will see a slight fee increase. Owners of lighter vehicles will see an increase by $10 (from $75 to $85) and the heavier tier by $15 (from $120 to $135). Additionally, there will be increased fines (from $120 to $200) for sticker scofflaws and late fees (from $40 to $60).
  • Police and Fire.  In an effort to best utilize city resources, the Chicago Police Department will be closing three police stations (none affecting the 48th Ward's districts) and merging the areas they represent into neighboring districts. This consolidation will reduce Police expenses and will allow for more Police officers on the streets. CPD will have deployed 1,000 new police officers to our streets before the end of the year; and next year, the Police Department will hold two additional training classes for new officers. The Fire Department will also merge with the Police Department on a city-wide level to help lower operating costs. Chicago will be the first large American city to consolidate its Police and Fire headquarters.
  • Department of Public Health.  DPH will consolidate 12 mental health facilities into 6 facilities, allowing them to improve staffing capacity at each facility and to increase psychiatric services. As a result, clients (existing and new) will have the opportunity to utilize mental health facilities located within their community. Examples of these in our community are C4 Chicago, Thresholds, and Heartland Alliance.
  • Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.  Starting in 2012, BACP will move all renewals to online. Businesses will benefit from a user-friendly renewal interface, allowing City employees more time to process new business owner licenses and in-person inquiries. The City will potentially realize a savings of up to $50,000 by eliminating mailed renewals. Additionally, a recently passed license streamlining ordinance removed 16 unnecessary and redundant inspections across 9 different types of licenses. The City will incrementally eliminate the employee head tax, which has been a deterrent for businesses to start and grow in Chicago, by the year 2014.
  • Department of Transportation.  CDOT's core mission to plan, design, construct, maintain and manage the public way will remain in 2012. Looking ahead to 2012, CDOT will work to improve the maintenance of our streets including fixing more potholes in alleys and on streets. Also, CDOT will oversee the launch of the city's first bike-sharking system and the increase of better bike lanes, both of which I hope to bring to the 48th Ward.
  • Department of Streets and Sanitation.  The original proposed budget made some reductions in the resources dedicated to graffiti removal. This funding has been restored to ensure continued efficient responses to graffiti tagging throughout the City. The City will be moving to grid-based garbage collection in 2012. Currently, Chicago is the only major city in America that collects trash based on political lines rather than on a street grid. This change will increase efficiencies and save money."


  1. "CDOT will oversee the launch of the city's first bike-sharking lanes..." Sounds scary!

  2. Interesting that NOT ONE single Alderman among FIFTY could find a single reason to vote against this budget!

    Looks like as much as things change, they still stay the same. If everyone's just going to go along with Rahm's agenda anyway, maybe we don't need as many people to rubber-stamp everything. There's a surefire way to save the city money... cut Aldermanic salaries and operating expenses.