Faced with a city budget crisis of epic proportions, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is looking for cuts everywhere he can find them. The latest savings he's found: stipends to members of city boards and commissions.
Reducing the roughly $20,000 salaries of two boards to a token $1 will save the city around $175,000 a year, Emanuel said, according to NBC Chicago. Compared to the roughly $650 million budget deficit expected to face, this is a drop in the bucket -- less than one tenth of one percent. But Emanuel is hoping that enough drops add up to something substantive.
On Wednesday, his office announced that the Cable Commission and the Board of Local Improvements will both see their stipends zeroed out. And he hopes to find more savings in other boards, according to the Chicago Tribune,. The city pays its various board members a total of $621,000 a year, and the mayor aims to cut that budget in half.
“Those who lend their time and expertise to serve on the city's boards and commissions should be motivated by the opportunity to serve the public, not financial gain,” said Mayor Emanuel in a press statement. “This action is another step towards ensuring that the City of Chicago is using every taxpayer dollar in a judicious and responsible way to deliver high-quality services to residents as efficiently as possible.”
Not every board and commission will be subject to such cuts. But at least one of the examples he chose appears particularly undeserving: the Board of Local Improvements met a grand total of once last year to take home their stipends of between $19,000 and $23,000.
It remains to be seen if Emanuel's political allies who have been appointed to the various boards will also see their stipends cut. Notables include Michael Forde, a lawyer who helped Emanuel fight off a residency-based ballot challenge, recently named to the Illinois International Port District Board; Dr. Anita Blanchard, the obstetrician who delivered the Obamas' two daughters, controversially appointed to the Landmarks Commission; and Andrew Madigan, son of powerful House speaker Michael, now of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Board.
As FOX Chicago points out, Emanuel is expected to present a preliminary budget at the end of the week. That will be the first test of how much water he's accumulated in the bucket with all these drops, and whether or not he's got more dramatic cuts planned elsewhere.