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City Budget Committee approves Rahm Emanuel’s $6.54 billion budget, but no aldermen mention police hirings

Updated: December 9, 2012 7:37PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s no-new-taxes 2013 budget cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday without a word about police hiring.

Aldermen from across the city have demanded that Emanuel hire more police officers — beyond the 500 he’s promised to add to keep pace with attrition — without figuring out how to pay for it.

Their demands seemed to gather strength this week when the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Police Department is on pace this year to break its all-time record of 570 retirements in a single year.

But when the Budget Committee met Wednesday to approve the $6.54 billion budget, there was no mention of police hiring and no aldermanic amendments to ease the manpower shortage.

The mayor added $350,000 to the $1.2 million budget for weed cutting at the request of aldermen whose wards are inundated with vacant lots. He also gave the new legislative inspector general an additional $94,000 to pay for two more investigators. But that was about it.

The tinkering was a far cry from last year’s budget negotiations, when opposition from rebel aldermen forced Emanuel to soften the blow of his library cuts, restore millions of dollars cut from graffiti removal and vacant lot cleaning, and raise city sticker fees across the board instead of confining the increase to large vehicles.

After Wednesday’s unanimous voice vote, Budget Director Alex Holt was asked whether she’s surprised that there was no attempt to bolster police hiring.

“We are putting over 450 officers into the academy before the end of the year. We’ve got 282 in the academy now. The budget next year is specifically set up to make sure that we can hire to attrition. Our attrition is usually around that 500 mark. If it’s more, we’ll hire more and we’re making sure we’ve got the capacity to do that,” she said.

The mayor’s budget holds the line on taxes, fines and fees beyond those set in motion last year and the annual increase in parking meter rates tied to a 75-year lease.

It includes 275 employee job cuts, eliminates the job-killing head tax by Dec. 31, 2013, six months earlier than originally planned, and makes strategic investments in tree-trimming, rodent control and children’s programs.

The Police Department will hold police entrance and sergeants exams, “re-invent” community policing by moving CAPS resources and staffing to districts and extend year-round a “surge” program that hires off-duty officers on summer weekends.

Household recycling will go citywide by the end of 2013. Small businesses will get inspector reform to match the license consolidation delivered this year.

Emanuel’s first budget was approved by a 50-to-0 vote — even though it was balanced with $220 million in taxes, fines and fees, 517 layoffs, two police station closings and consolidation of 12 mental health clinics into six.

This time, the mayor could pitch a second straight shutout, but it’s almost certain to be his last.

In 2016, the city is required by state law to make a $700 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds.

Emanuel has asked union leaders to swallow a bitter pill that includes: a 10 year freeze in cost-of-living increases for retirees; a five year increase in the retirement age; a 5 percent increase in employee contributions, and a two-tiered pension system for new and old employees.

But even if that happens, new revenues will be needed to meet the unions halfway, which helps to explain why Emanuel is holding the line this year. Aldermen have called it the calm before the storm.

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