Daley: Pick your tax hikes
October 2, 2007
BY Fran Spielman Special to the Daily Southtown
Mayor Richard Daley on Monday served up a pick-your-poison menu of tax increases - including the largest property tax increase in Chicago history - and asked aldermen to chose enough of them to fill a $193 million budget gap.
The $108 million property tax increase would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $57 more a year.
• Pick your poison
The impact on Chicago property owners would be compounded by a $40.8 million increase in water and sewer rates and a new $9 million tax on water consumption. The water tax alone would cost the average homeowner $10 a year.
"The mayor is not going to get everything he wants. If he asks for a real estate tax (increase), there's going to be a war," said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), chairman of the city council's buildings committee.
"The first people who get whacked are always property owners. I've been in the city council for 25 years, and I've never voted for a property tax increase. I don't intend on voting for one now," said Ald. William Banks (36th), one of Daley's staunchest supporters.
To finance rising personnel costs and declining revenue tied to the housing slump, city budget director Bennett Johnson also talked about imposing a 10-cent tax on bottled water, doubling both the nickel-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 0.25 percent tax on restaurant meals and raising taxes on parking, liquor and lease transactions.
The entire menu would raise $319 million. The city needs $193 million to fill a gap that's now $24 million lower than initial estimates, officials said.
Daley also threw in a few new initiatives to appease aldermen and their tax-weary constituents: Hiring 50 more police officers at a cost of $4.1 million; spending $1 million to install 100 more surveillance cameras in high-crime areas; and expanding suburban-style curbside recycling from 80,000 to 211,000 households at a cost of $6.7 million.
The proposed property tax increase would be accomplished without lifting the city's self-imposed property tax cap by separating the tax levy earmarked for library operations and construction from the city's main operating fund.
In 1992, Daley tried to raise property taxes by $48.6 million, but a city council rebellion forced him to cut the increase in half. The same thing could happen this time.
"I'm happy we're getting new police officers. I'm happy about expanded recycling. But I'm not happy about the property tax increase. And I'm very concerned about some of the other taxes that are nickel-and-diming people," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th).
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she's all for doubling the gas tax, but only if the Chicago Transit Authority gets the money.
"I don't think we're going to get the help we need from Springfield. (CTA funding is) a critical issue for me, and I don't see anybody paying attention," she said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said he could swallow the large property tax increase if it's earmarked for library operations and construction.
"It comes out of the same pocket. But (the tax revenue is) not going for waste and mismanagement," he said.