Daley announces cuts for summer festivals

October 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) Some of the mayor's options include dipping into the reserve fund and cancelling some popular summer festivals.

There could be less city-sponsored fun next summer in Chicago because of budget cuts to be recommended Wednesday.

Nevertheless, agencies that help the poor and disadvantaged need not worry as the mayor announces plans to tap the city's "rainy day" fund to help make ends meet.

Tuesday morning, the mayor toured the program for ex-offenders at St. Leonard's Ministries on the West Side. For the past five years, the city has helped support such agencies with money stashed away after the Skyway lease deal. That part of the Skyway windfall is gone now, so beginning with next year's budget and continuing through 2013, Daley wants to use $100 million from the parking meter deal for human services.

"I'm just worried about how people are suffering in the city of Chicago. That's what everybody has to look at. How people suffer. Everybody wants to worry about everything else on the side. Let's really worry about people," Daley said.

The decision to tap the reserves to help fill the $550 million budget hole follows the announcement last week that the Daley administration will not seek any tax or fee increases.

Using money from the sale of city assets to help fund human services makes sense to St. Leonard's Executive Director Bob Dougherty.

"A city with physical assets isn't going to be very well off if it doesn't have a large cadre of human beings that share in the life of that community in a positive way," Dougherty said.

Monday, the mayor said he'd propose 24 furlough days for non-union workers, the elimination of hundreds of vacant positions and the consolidation of some city services to save money.

Daley would not say if during his speech to the aldermen Wednesday, he'll recommend dipping into the reserve for other expenses. The Civic Federation worries that any withdrawals will affect Chicago's bond rating.

"if you draw down the reserves you are going to affect the city's credit rating, which means all of the future borrowing for the city of Chicago is going to go up dramatically," said Laurence Msall, Chicago Civic Federation.

The administration also confirmed Tuesday that because of the budget deficit, the city will withdraw its financial support from Venetian Night and some other lakefront celebrations and festivals.

"Cultural events are going to have to be considered as things that we may have to cut back on," said Ald. Manny Flores, 1st Ward.

Earlier the mayor said the city during the economic downturn is reconsidering its priorities. "It's easy to talk about good times. But, what is your priority in the bad times. Then you define what a government is all about," Daley said.

City officials say they won't shoulder all the blame for cancellations or cutbacks in summer festivals next year.

They say the recession has caused corporate sponsors to withdraw their support from activities, and there's no way the deficit-ridden city could make up the difference.

Chicagoans are likely to hear about more budget cuts when the mayor addresses the city council Wednesday morning.

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