SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers today sent Gov. Pat Quinn a measure pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that would allow the city to raise 911 fees that are tacked on to monthly phone bills.
Under the measure, the City Council would have the ability to raise 911 fees by as much as $1.40, which would bring the charge on landline and cell phone bills to $3.90 a month.
Supporters say money raised would be used to fund the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. How much money the fee hike would bring in depends on whether aldermen vote to increase the fee and to what level.
The city collected about $90 million last year through the current $2.50-per-month fee, which was short of the $123 million needed to run the emergency center. However, a spokeswoman for Emanuel has refused to say whether the mayor wants to raise the fee to an amount that would bring in more money than the city needs to cover the OEMC budget or how the city would use any extra revenue.
The city’s take from the 911 fee increase could top $50 million, which could allow the City Council to avoid a vote before next year’s elections on a property tax increase to fund city worker pensions. The extra money for city worker retirements is part of a partial pension fix that’s on Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.
If Emanuel does push a higher phone fee through the City Council, it will be the latest move by the mayor to raise costs for Chicagoans.
Emanuel's first budget increased the price of vehicle stickers, boosted the hotel tax rate and launched a series of increases that will more than double city water and sewer fees over a four-year period. He has also raised property taxes three times as part of his Chicago Public Schools budget, and has said he would push another property tax increase to fund city pensions, should Quinn sign off on city pension bill currently on his desk.