The City of Chicago’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson today released its third annual report of Savings and Revenue Options for the City for cost savings and revenue increases. In 2010 and 2011, Joe Ferguson made suggestions first in 2010 to Mayor Richard M. Daley and then in 2011 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Both suggestions caused a stir at City Hall in the past and it is expected this year is no different.
This year the IGO’s Savings and Revenue Options Report is comprised of 31 options to cut spending or increase revenue worth an estimated total of more than $1.176 billion.
Each option includes a brief overview of how proponents and opponents might argue each
option, and many options further highlight important questions for the public and decision
makers to consider.
The list of options is not meant to be an exhaustive one, and the inclusion of any option in this report is not, and should not be, construed as an endorsement by the IGO.
“This report is meant to assist City stakeholders by providing a starting point for discussion
regarding a variety of immediate and longer-term expenditure and revenue decisions,” said
Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “The options themselves stemmed from submissions by the general public and City Council, as well as the IGO’s prior work. That work includes IGO audits, investigations, and program reviews.”
The IGO suggested savings in the Chicago Police Department (CPD) by replacing the officers in the Forensic Service Division of the CPD with civilian employees at a potential savings of $3.1 million. The IGO also suggested replacing the Police Officers in Administrative Sections and positions in the CPD with civilians, to save approximately $3.6 million.
This suggestion didn’t sit well with Michael Shields, President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, who issued a statement saying, “Manpower is way down, murder is way up — unlike other major cities. Now the Inspector General wants to slash the Police Budget. The City needs to get its priorities in order. I want to fight crime, I want less people getting killed. Cutting police resources will not accomplish any of that.”
The IGO re-introduced an issue that came up during the 2011 mayoral campaign, the taxing of services. It was known during the campaign as the “Rahm tax” by one of his opponents. The City of Chicago does not have the legal authority to impose new service taxes. Currently, 17 services are taxed. Under the IGO suggestion of expanding the tax on services, the IGO estimates that up to $500 million in revenues can be raised. However, a change in Illinois state legislation would be required to broaden the sales tax on services.
Another suggestion sure to cause a stir among the city’s senior population is the suggestion to eliminate free sewer service to seniors “residing in their own residence.” This would bring in $16.3 million into city coffers. The IGO takes another shot at seniors by suggesting an elimination of the “reduced rate for city stickers for seniors.” This would bring in $6.4 million into city coffers, but likely both senior suggestions are nonstarters. Seniors are typically on fixed-incomes and also a high percentage o seniors vote, suggesting a political fallout from passing such measures.
Another suggestion sure to stir up controversy is the reduction of paid holidays to 10 federally recognized days that the IGO said would save $5.4M. Most City employees receive 12 annual paid holidays and one personal day in addition to paid vacation days. 128 Firefighters also receive Flag Day as a holiday, and CPD members receive a
Community/Police Partnership Day. Some of these changes would require collective bargaining with employee unions.
It was also suggested recovering the costs borne by the City in responding to false residential burglary alarms by assessing a fee. If the city imposed a service fee of $44 for each of the approximately 43,000 residential false burglar alarm calls, it is estimated that the City can generate approximately $1.9 million.
Once again, the IGO suggested that the city of Chicago reduce the manning on fire trucks from the current five. Estimated savings by reducing this number to four is to save $70.8 million. Another CFD suggestion is replacing the firefighters in the Fire Prevention Bureau with civilian employees to save $1.5 million.
Another CFD suggestion would be to eliminate two fire suppression districts. Assuming a proportional reduction in staffing, this reduction would allow for the elimination of nine DDC positions from the City’s 28 fire suppression DDC positions. The savings: $1.8 million.
Broadening the Amusement Tax to raise an additional $116 million in revenue. Under this option, the City would apply the nine percent amusement tax to all live theater, musical, and cultural performances. It does not currently apply to those three area.
The broadening of the amusement tax suggestion would also eliminate the amusement tax exemption for live theater, musical, and cultural performances in establishments with capacities under 750 persons.
Under this suggestion, it would eliminate the amusement tax exemption for non-profit organizations and eliminate the amusement tax exemption for health and sport club membership fees.
Another suggestion is cutting the communications staff by 25 percent. This would result in the elimination of nine positions. The average total compensation of the 39 employees in these positions is $102,000. Eliminating nine of these positions, assuming the positions eliminated had the average salary and benefits of the 39 current positions, would save approximately $920,000.
Among some of the other budget suggestions from the Chicago Inspector General’s Office are:
• Reducing Janitorial Contract Services in City facilities to save $5 million;
• Eliminating “Personal Computer Operator” positions citywide to save up to $3.7 million;
• Increasing the health insurance contribution for City employees earning over $90,000 to
save $1.4 million;
• Setting the default on all printers and copiers to double-sided printing to save $200,000;
• Changing street-sweeping to a citywide grid system, eliminating five MTD jobs at a savings of $475,000. It is currently accomplished ward-by-ward.
• Eliminating the City’s subsidy to World Business Chicago to save $1 million annually.
“One should not look at the total ‘value’ of these options as an immediately obtainable,
necessarily desirable, dollar impact on the City’s budget,” said the Chicago Inspector General, Joe Ferguson. “Implementation of some would preclude implementation of others; in other words, they are alternative options. Moreover, many options would require changes in existing collective bargaining agreements, state law, or significant planning for the restructured delivery of City services.”
The report can be found online at the Chicago IGO website.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books