CHICAGO The Chicago city council yesterday passed Mayor Richard M. Daley's $3.5 billion fiscal 1995 budget, which calls for no new property taxes despite increased funding for police services and a scheduled $150 million general obligation bond issue slated for the spring.
The vote was preceded by nearly two hours of debate, with a bloc of minority aldermen rising to oppose the budget and, by extension, the mayor, who is up for reelection next year.
"This august body doesn't have the guts to stand up and tell the truth ... you all know this budget doesn't meet your community's needs," said alderman Dexter Watson.
Watson criticized a centerpiece of the budget -- money to repave five miles of streets and alleys in each city ward saying poor wards will be last on the list for improvements. He said the mayor has no idea what his ward needs because he hasn't met with residents there.
"We have rats infesting the streets. What are you going to do about it, [Department of] Streets and Sanitation? When was the last time you came to see it, mayor? The mayor is invisible in the 27th ward," he said.
Several minority aldermen joined Watson, saying the Daley Administration has not done enough to steer work to minority contractors. "We'll tell our residents they're getting new streets residents they're getting new streets and new alleys, and they'll ask who's performing the work. And we'll have to say they're from [surbarban] DuPage and Will counties," said aldermen Rober Shaw.
Despite stormy debate just before the vote, the city council made few substantial changes to Daley's budget proposals, which were introduced a month ago. The biggest 'compromise forced by the Council was a cut to a proposed 2% increase in the city amusement tax. Aldermen voted instead to double the number of new downtown parking meters and raise the amusement tax by only 1%.
The new tax revenue will help the city pay for a $17 million tax cut tor businesses, including a reduction in the city's so-called head tax on business. Companies with fewer than 50 employees will pay no tax on their employees, while those with more than 50 workers will pay $4 per employee a month rather than the prem $5 tax.
Under the 1995 budget, the city will put 475 additional police officers to work, though 275 of the positions are contingent on obtaining funds under the federal crime law enacted this summer.
The street resurfacing program, along with several other neighborhood infrastructure improvements, will be paid for with proceeds from a $150 million GO bond issue. Though the aldermen approved debt service for the bond issue in yesterday's budget vote, a vote on an ordinance approving the issuance of the bonds will not take place until next year, said Russ Carlson, first depety budget director.
City Comptroller Walter Knoff has said the bonds will probably be issued early next spring and has suggested the deal may be done using variable interest rates.
Chicago's GO debt is rated A by Moody' s Investors Service and A-minus by Standard & Poor's Corp.