Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel got an earful from angry Chicagoans at a townhall meeting on September 3, following his proposal for a hefty property tax hike. The city would see an increase in revenue of between $450 million to $500 million per year, which would mean an average increase of $500 per year for each Chicago homeowner.
 
Even so, Chicago’s effective property tax rate would remain among the lowest in the metro area. But the revenue will be welcome in the city coffers, given the city’s well-known dire financial situation. Currently, Chicago homeowners pay 1.84 percent on their properties. Observers in the City of Big Shoulders indicate that the tax increase unduly impacts moderate-income buyers more than high-end buyers, and thus discourage home purchases.  If the city council approves the tax hike, the tax on a $250,000 home will jump by $470: an 11 percent increase.
 
 
Emanuel, who once worked in the Obama administration, heard from residents of the Far Northwest Side of Chicago who are incensed about the forthcoming massive property tax increase, as well overcrowding in schools, the noise caused by air traffic coming in on O’Hare Airports new runways, and cuts to special education.
 
Chicagoans will face not only a property tax increase, but also increased charges to be levied on garbage collection that is expected to generate $100 million in revenue. Plenty of other fees are in the works in order to deal with a municipal budget deficit that has been more than 10 years in coming. The garbage tax will be about $12 per month, while there is a possibility that the city will impose a $1 per-ride surcharge on car-sharing services such as Uber. A charge on e-cigarettes is also expected.
 
Chicago Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown told listeners that the tax hike will be “progressive and fair” at the end of the hearing. Rahm himself answered only a few specific questions from the capacity crowd before being taken off stage by his handlers. Some citizens were granted private conversations with the mayor as they pleaded their cases.
 
 
One resident demanded that city expenditures be curtailed. Roberta Vesperman said of Chicago, “The city doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem." 
What local officials have called a “major crisis” for city finances, the Illinois legislature is requiring Chicago to pay $550 million in pensions to police and fire fighters by 2016. 
 
The tax increases are said to be needed to avert what city officials have called a "major crisis" created by the state Legislature's requirement that city to make a $550 million pension payment to police and fire pension systems by 2016, officials have said.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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