Chicago Eyes Layoffs Amid Meltdown Cities — like many of the people who live in them — are struggling to make ends meet as the economy sours. Chicago's budget shortfall for next year is nearly $500 million. To close that gap, Mayor Richard Daley plans to lay off close to 1,000 city workers.
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Chicago Eyes Layoffs Amid Meltdown

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Chicago Eyes Layoffs Amid Meltdown

Chicago Eyes Layoffs Amid Meltdown

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

So, now we've heard about budget woes in King County and in the state of Massachusetts. City finances are in trouble too. Our last story takes us to one of the nation's largest cities.

DAVID SCHAPER: I'm David Schaper in an alley in Chicago with the streets-and-sanitation crew collecting garbage. Soon Chicagoans may not see quite so many garbage trucks coming through their alleys. Certainly there will be fewer city workers manning these trucks under the austere budget proposed by Chicago mayor, Richard Daley, this week.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Democrat, Chicago): This is not a good-news budget.

SCHAPER: In his budget address to the city council, Daley said the deficit has grown almost $50 million in just the last three months, because of the economic crisis, and now stands at $469 million.

To balance the budget, Daley says, he needs to layoff more than 900 city employees, and cut services in every department, except for police and fire.

Mayor DALEY: Because the economy continues to worsen, the cost of government continues to increase, we are forced to make these difficult and tough choices.

Mr. BERNIE STONE (Chicago Alderman): Now this is my 36th budget.

SCAHPER: Chicago alderman, Bernie Stone, reacting to the budget message.

Mr. STONE: And is probably the toughest message I've ever heard.

SCHAPER: But the 81-year-old Stone says the economy right now might be the worst he sees since the 1930s, squeezing budgets, not just in Chicago, but across the country, while some cities have perennial budget crises, and others are known for waste corruption and inefficiency, this year appears worse, because revenues from sales, property, and income taxes are all down.

Mr. MIKE BEGANO(ph) (University of Illinois, Chicago): This is the first time in memory and possibly even the first time since the Great Depression that the major general-revenue sources for municipal governments are all three declining at about the same time.

SCHAPER: Mike Begano of the University of Illinois, Chicago, co-authored a report on fiscal conditions for the National League of Cities.

Mr. BEGANO: The picture for 2009 looks very grim, but the picture for 2010 doesn't look a lot better.

SCHAPER: Begano says that's because even if sales and income-tax revenues recover, real-estate values in many parts of the country are still falling. And for most cities, next year's property taxes are based on this year's assessment. So just as residents facing tough times may look to government services for more, many city budgets may have less to offer them for the next couple of years at least. David Schaper, NPR News Chicago.

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