Taking the Temperature on Mayor’s Water, Sewer Tax Proposal

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is briefing aldermen this week on a proposed tax on water and sewer bills to help save the city’s largest pension fund, which is estimated to run out of money in 2025.

The mayor’s proposed tax would be phased in over four years and would raise $239 million once fully implemented. For the average homeowner, that means bills would increase by about $50 in the first year and $226 in the fourth year.

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The mayor’s office says that money will help stabilize the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund, which is grappling with $18.6 billion in unfunded liabilities. The fund covers most city employees, like aldermen, but not firefighters or police officers. If no action is taken, some aldermen say they fear the city will be forced to declare bankruptcy.

“The alternative is much worse,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward), who would like the city to look at other ways to raise money, like creating a toll on city expressways to charge commuters who are coming in and out of town. 

Host Carol Marin talks about the mayor’s proposal with Aldermen Milly Santiago (31st Ward), Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) and Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward). 

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