Emanuel uses seized cash for summer youth programs

March 5, 2012 3:23:40 PM PST
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel found a source of revenue to put the city's young people to work.

The mayor will take the money collected from what he calls deadbeats and cheaters to pay for the program.

A city council vote two weeks ago allows the state to seize the tax refunds of those who owe debts to the city. It is already paying dividends. And Emanuel said Monday he'll use most of the money for youth programs this summer.

The mayor arrived at the Harris Park Fieldhouse with good news for the children there and at other fieldhouses around Chicago. The financially-stressed city has come up with more money to fund park district programs.

"We are going to increase resources to the park district for our children this summer by 30 percent, $2.5 million, about 8,000 more children will have the ability to go to camp that they did not have before," Emanuel said.

The money is part of an $8.5 million dollar windfall that began flowing last month when the city council opted into a new state program. At the request of any local government, the Illinois comptroller will garnish the tax refunds of people past due on their unpaid tickets, fines and fees.

Emanuel said Chicago is owed more by people who don't live in the city.

"Fifty-two percent of it is non-resident," Emanuel said. "We have written them, called them, asked them to pay their responsibility."

"Statewide, I think it will have a major impact," said comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

Topinka says her office has already mailed the bad news to 23,000 Illinois taxpayers that all or part their refunds will be garnished and the money sent to local governments.

After park district programs, the rest of the city's $8.5 million windfall will be spent in $2 million dollar chunks to expand the After School Matters program by 50 percent, to more than double the number of summer jobs for teens and young adults, and to hire another 50 chicago police officers.