Chicago City Council Passes $7.3 Billion Budget for 2015

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The Chicago City Council passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed $7.3 billion 2015 budget on Nov. 19.

Critics say that a property tax increase will make up a $62.4 million shortfall, and that the budget simply delays problems until after the mayoral election coming up in February.

Emanuel is seeking a second term against stiff opposition.

Alderman Bob Fioretti, who will be challenging Emanuel for the mayorship next year, criticized the City Council’s decision. “This budget does not do enough to make our streets safe and our neighborhoods strong and does not bring Chicago together,” he said. “This budget does not give us a road map to long-term financial security. It continues to use long-term bonds to fund operations and pushes the burden of payments on our children.”

The vote was 46-4 in favor of the budget.

Big Projects, Big Backlogs
Chicago faces massive staffing and infrastructure shortages that Emanuel says his budget will address.

The mayor’s allies in the council hearing praised the budget’s additional attention to tree trimming, graffiti removal and pothole repair.

It was revealed in late October that there is a two-year backlog on tree trimming in the city. A CBS investigation over the summer found that unanswered resident requests to have dead and potentially dangerous trees removed date back to 2011.

The budget’s supporters also touted investments in early childhood education, as well as after-school and summer job programs.

“Our Work Is Not Done”
Emanuel hailed the vote as a commonsense victory, saying that while “we’re not where we need to be,” “we’re definitely not continuing the past practices that got us into the problem.”

“This is a tough budget,” he continued. “We didn’t defer. We didn’t delay. We didn’t deny. We were honest with people. And our work is not done.”

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said that the amount Chicago taxpayers will be on the hook for will depend not only on city action, but also on Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner and the state assembly.

“This budget is a short-term answer to the city’s immediate financial situation,” he said, “but it does not provide long-term stability without further action in Springfield.”

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