Archive for September 23rd, 2015

Chicago property tax increase for pension payments (more)

Excerpts from

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told aldermen Tuesday the city must raise property taxes by $543 million to shore up police and firefighter pension funds, or face laying off thousands of firefighters and police officers.

The mayor’s budget plan includes phasing in that $543 million property tax over the next four years, with the bulk of it scheduled for this year. He also proposed a new garbage collection fee, and a bevy of other new taxes and fees, as he aims to eliminate the city’s structural budget deficit, and solve the city’s pension crisis. Emanuel also called for an additional $45 million property tax hike to fund school construction.

If approved by at least 26 aldermen, the mayor’s budget plan would amount to what analysts have called the largest property tax hike in modern Chicago history.

Emanuel called the proposed property tax hike a “last resort” to avoid massive cuts to essential services.

The mayor said, to meet police and firefighter pension obligations through spending cuts alone would mean laying off 2,500 police officers — 20 percent of the current force — and 2,000 firefighters — about 40 percent of the force. The city also would have to close 48 fire stations, reduce trash collection from once a week to twice a month, eliminate recycling services altogether, stop repairing potholes, halt rodent abatement programs, and eliminate graffiti removal.

“In short, if we were to fund our pensions with cuts alone, our city services would become unreliable. Our City would become unlivable. And that would be totally unacceptable,” he said. “We must solve our pension challenge and there are only two options: we can make the damaging cuts that I spelled out and undermine all of the hard work and progress that we made, or we can raise property taxes to meet our obligation to police and firefighters who answer our every call. The bill is due today. And that is the choice that is in front of us. I know where I stand.”

Emanuel’s plan would call for a $318 million increase in the 2015 property tax levy, payable in 2016, followed by a $109 million hike in the 2016 levy, a $53 million increase in the 2017 levy, and a $63 million increase in the 2018 levy. Additionally, the city would authorize a $45 million increase in property taxes in the 2015 levy to fund school construction.

All told, the $588 million in property tax increases would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $588 more per year.

In addition to the property tax hike, Emanuel called for a $9.50 per month garbage collection fee to raise roughly $60 million a year in new revenue; a 50-cent-per-ride surcharge on taxis and ride-sharing services, to generate close to $50 million; a 15 percent increase in cab fares; authorizing ride-share companies to pick up customers at O’Hare and Midway airports, in exchange for a$5 fee for every dropoff and pickup at the airports and Navy Pier; new taxes on e-cigarettes to bring in $1 million; and an increase in building permit fees to generate another $13 million.

The mayor also stressed he has included $170 million in “savings and reforms,” to cut costs before turning to higher taxes.

Ralph Martire, director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said he expects some Chicago residents aren’t going to like what they hear in terms of new taxes and fees.

“Folks are certainly going to react negatively to an entire series of tax increases that seem like nickel and diming in some instances – the additional cab fee, the additional garbage fee,” he said.

However, Martire said – especially during former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s tenure – the city has used one-time revenues and borrowing to pay ongoing operating expenses, while police and fire pension debt ballooned without proper payments.

“You know, he [Emanuel] will have to make some distasteful choices. That’s the bad news, and I think the worse news is some of these choices should have been made years ago, possibly even a decade or so ago,” he said.

Martire said drastic steps by the city and the state are needed to get the city’s budget and employee pension systems on solid footing.

However, top Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner havent’ been able to agree on anything.

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Technology Center of DuPage fire science open house

This from Andy Hilk:

On my days off I teach a fire science class to high school students that is run through the Technology Center of DuPage (TCD).  TCD is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) High School for juniors and seniors attending high school in DuPage County and has about 1,100 students enrolled that attend either a morning or afternoon session.  Programs of study include Fire Science/EMT, Criminal Justice, Auto Body, Construction, and many more.
This past Saturday, TCD, which is on Swift Road in Addison, had our annual expo and the students participated in a mock crash scenario in the parking lot assisted by the Addison FPD.  Last year the Wood Dale FPD donated two vehicles to TCD;  a 1980’s vintage Pierce Dash which was x-Engine 68 I believe, and a Ford/Wheeled Coach ambulance. The rigs have now been lettered as TCD rigs with an acknowledgement to Wood Dale.
students simulate crash rescue

Andy Hilk photo

students simulate crash rescue

Andy Hilk photo

former Wood Dale FPD fire engine

Former Wood Dale FPD fire engine. Andy Hilk photo

fire truck donated to school

Andy Hilk photo

fire truck donated to school

Andy Hilk photo

former Wood Dale FPD ambulance

Former Wood Dale ambulance. Andy Hilk photo

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Where are they now … The Joseph Medill

This from Doug Hoyt:

I was in Escanaba, MI over the weekend and saw what remains of the Chicago fireboat Joseph Medill.  Thought it might be interesting for the web site.  Thanks.

Doug Hoyt…
Chicago fireboat Joseph Medill

Doug Hoyt photo

Chicago fireboat Joseph Medill

Chicago fireboat Joseph Medill. Doug Hoyt photo

Chicago fireboat Joseph Medill

Doug Hoyt photo

More on The Joseph Medill HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE

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