As aldermen debated the proposed City budget for fiscal year 2012, they made little mention of the proposed 7.9 percent increase in the City’s portion of the property tax, focusing in large part on how they might restore some of the positions that may be eliminated.

The City’s portion of the entire property tax bill is 20 percent.

“We’re basically resigning ourselves to the tax increase,” said Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson. He was chiding some of his colleagues to think expansively about the budget.

“We should be talking concepts,” Ald. Wilson said, rather than looking at specific aspects of the proposed budget. At that point in the Oct. 29 public hearing on the budget, aldermen were debating whether to restore four forestry-worker positions, and possibly other positions, that the City Manager’s proposed budget would eliminate.

City staff prepared an analysis of the impact of those cuts on City services, both forestry and snow-removal since many of the forestry crew drive snowplows during snow emergencies.

The cost of restoring the four positions would add about $140,000 to next year’s expenses, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. He said he chose to eliminate those positions because, “When I look at the overall budget, I think that contracting out [outsourcing] is a very bad idea. But we have a deficit that has to be made up and a budget that has to be balanced. … We do not believe the [elimination of the four forestry-worker positions] will have any impact on snow operations.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, made a motion to restore those four positions. Challenged by Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus that “It’s easy to put things in – more difficult to take things out.”

Ald. Rainey then suggested increasing parking-meter rates to $1 per hour as a way to pay for restoring the workers’ positions. “I’m not interested in sanctions or raising fines or going after scofflaws. Anyone who’s ever parked in Chicago knows that you’ve got to pay for it,” said Ald. Rainey. She said doing that would increase the City’s revenues by about $600,000 – “found money,” she said, and more than enough to cover the four forestry-worker positions, should they be restored.

After discussing whether to include even more potentially eliminated positions and whether to increase the parking-meter rates only in the downtown area or throughout the City, aldermen ultimately defeated a pared-down motion to restore only the four forestry-worker positions.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, joined Ald. Rainey as the second of only two “yes” votes. Most of the other aldermen said they supported the concept of restoring positions but they felt doing so at this point in the process was premature.

Public Hearing Nov. 14

The public hearing on the budget will take place at the Nov. 14 City Council meeting. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “The public will have time to speak at each City Council meeting where the budget is discussed.”

By law, the City Council must pass a balanced budget by the beginning of the next fiscal year, Jan. 1, 2012.

Times Changed for Two Council Meetings

The date and time of two special City Council meetings in November have changed.

The meeting previously scheduled for Nov. 16 has been moved to Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. This is a special meeting to discuss fiscal year 2012 budget.

The meeting previously scheduled for Nov. 30 has been moved to Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. This is a special meeting of the City Council and Township Board to discuss township dissolution and municipal electric aggregation.

Some Highlights of The City’s Proposed

• 7.9 percent increase in the City’s portion of the property tax

• $14,923,144 contributions to the police ($8,521,751) and firefighters($6,401,393) pension funds.

• Increased collection rates of money owed the City (est. $320,000 in revenues)

• $5 increase parking fines (est. $530,000 in revenues)

• Elimination of 11 City positions (net)

• New: Moving van permit fee (est. $50,000 in revenue)

• Increase in one-day liquor license (est. $2,850 in revenue)