City council discuss Mayor’s proposed 2014 budget ahead of vote

City-Budget[dropcap]M[/dropcap]embers of City Council discussed cigarette taxes, police overtime and other items featured in the city’s proposed 2014 budget. Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a nearly $8.7 billion budget for 2014. Currently Chicago has a $339 million deficit.

The mayor’s plan is expecting $10 million in revenue from higher parking fines and impounded vehicle fees, $9 million from a new cable TV tax, about $120 million from both red-light and speed cameras and $4 million from increased fees for zoning applications and for those who file such documents in person rather than electronically.

“We have reduced our structural deficit by making city government smaller, smarter and simpler,” said Emanuel in a release Oct. 23. He also said that unless Springfield passes pension reform for Chicago soon, the city would need to either double city property taxes or eliminate the vital services that people need in the 2015 budget of Chicago.

At the Oct. 28 hearings on the budget, members of City Council questioned the practicality of the mayor’s proposed 75-cent cigarette tax increase, which would make Chicago home to the highest-taxed smokes in the country. Alexandra Holt, the city’s budget director, said that cigarette tax was based on the anticipated decline of smokers within the city. Additionally, the mayor’s office said the smoking tax would be used to enroll Chicago Public School students who lack basic health care in Medicaid.

In addition to an increase in taxes for smokers, the new plan also expands the police department’s overtime budget to about $70 million. That’s more than double the $32 million budgeted for 2013.

Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, 2nd District, asked Holt why the city was not hiring more cops since the mayor was expanding the department’s overtime budget. Previously, the city said it plans to hire just enough new police officers to keep the department’s size at about 12,500 officers.

“It’s cheaper to pay overtime than to hire fully loaded police officers with health benefits and so on,” said McCarthy, at a press conference the same day as the hearings at the South Chicago Police District station, 2255 E. 103rd St. “Plus, new officers won’t be ready for nine months.”

Additionally, Emanuel’s budget also predicts about $15 million in revenue from the city’s new speed cameras this year. Drivers will be issued a $35 ticket or $100 ticket, depending on speed, at locations where the cameras are set up. The city expects to have about 50 speed camera locations set up by year’s end.

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