Rahm Emanuel Relying On Speed Camera Cash For City Budget

Will Speed Camera Cash Balance City Budget?

Drivers may cringe at the sight of more speed-cameras on the road, but the devices are an important factor in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to keep taxes down in 2013.

Despite a budget shortfall of $298 million, Emanuel announced Wednesday that the city's 2013 budget plan would include a boost in after-school investment without new taxes. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Emanuel is banking on the cameras bringing in up to $30 million in fines. New cameras will be installed at approximately 40 schools and parks around the city to help line the purse of the mayor's “children first” budget.

This June, the Tribune reported that the city had not shown any convincing research to back the claim that speed cameras improve pedestrian safety; some residents say the mayor's camera plan is more of a cash-grab than legitimate safety precaution.

Though the camera revenue is a factor in next year's budget, the legality of the cameras themselves is currently still being hashed out. The Tribune reported in September that Emanuel's efforts to hastily push the ordinance through City Council hit a snag "due to a 38-year-old opinion by the Illinois attorney general that says children must be 'visibly present' before school zone speed limits can be enforced."

According to NBC Chicago, before the new speed camera ordinance was considered by Chicago aldermen this spring, the mayor made a few adjustments, in particular softening the proposed fines: originally said to start out at $50, fines would start at $35 for any drivers traveling 6-10 miles over the posted limit in the safety zone. The fine jumps to $100 for cars traveling 11 miles or more over the limit.

Other areas of savings and revenue in the mayor's budget proposal come from a string of layoffs, spending reforms and streamlined debt collection:

  • $67 million of spending reforms and cuts, including 10 million in savings from strategic sourcing on city contracts and 5.8 million in information technology reforms
  • $45 million in personnel savings including 20 million in layoffs, attrition and vacancy sweeps, and5 million from partnerships with labor
  • $70 million in healthcare savings
  • $10 million from TIF reform
  • $24 million in improved debt collection
  • $42 million in additional revenue growth
  • $40 million from refinancing long-term debt

The city is also tapping residents for suggestions as to how to help the city get its "fiscal house in order."

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