City Council begins 2013 budget hearings

The Chicago City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations held a hearing today on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed spending plan for the coming year.

Today is the first of at least nine committee hearings on the Mayor's proposed 2013 budget.  Today's hearing focused on the overall budget.

Budget Director Alexandra Holt started off with a quick overview of what the 2013 budget entails, once again explaining how the Emanuel administration feels it will be able to close a nearly $300 million budget hole without raising taxes, fines, or fees.

The first of the Aldermen to speak after her opening remarks praised the administration, one even calling it the best budget he has seen in years.

There is less pain in this budget to taxpayers, partly because of decisions made last year that will bring in additional revenue.

For one, water bills will go up on January 1 as part of the mayor's plan to rebuild the city's aging water and sewer system.

Parking meter rates will also increase based on the lease contract former Mayor Richard Daley signed when he privatized the system.

And drivers could get more tickets when new speed cameras go up near schools and parks.

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), the vice chairman of the budget committee, says this year the Council will have fewer tough choices than it did last year.

"We've done a lot of good work restructuring how the city operates," Reilly told WGN.  "Now it's about making it operate more efficiently."

"But we're still not out of the woods yet," Reilly continued.  "We still have a $300 million hole to fill, instead of $700 million, and that's going to require some further consolidations, some head-count reductions, and limiting some programs."

Starting tomorrow and each day after, each department head will come before committees to answer specific questions about their department's budget.

On October 31 there will be a public hearing when the public will be able to comment on the budget.

The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on November 15.

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