Austin and other Chicago motorists will see their city sticker fees increase next year as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2012 budget, approved unanimously earlier this month.
The city’s 1.2 million motorists will feel the increase when they go to renew their stickers by the June 30 expiration.
Under Emanuel’s $6.3 billion budget — aimed to fix the city’s nearly $636 million shortfall — stickers for cars will increase $10, from $75 to $85; SUVs will cost $15 more, from $120 to $135; pickup trucks will bump up $20, from $180 to $200; and larger trucks will increase $30 to a total of $450.
At that rate, Austin and the other West Side wards would generate at least $5.1 million next year for the city if all these motorists paid the proposed $85 price for a passenger car sticker.
But it appears as though West Side residents are driving less, or not paying for a sticker, as the total number of stickers sold in the Austin-area wards have decreased in recent years.
In 2009, 66,475 stickers were sold in the 24th, 28th, 29th and 37th Wards. That’s about 6,100 more stickers sold than this year.
Overall, the 37th Ward has sold the most stickers in the last three years.
Wendy Tannenbaum, president of the North Avenue Business Association, an organization that helps promote the business district on North Avenue in Oak Park and parts of Austin, said many people can agree that the more prices go up, the more difficult it is for local businesses.
“Nobody wants an increase in fees right now,” Tannenbaum said.
But, she added, “The city has major budget concerns. Many of our city services, such as public safety, maintaining our roads and keeping our libraries open, can’t be cut.”
Ron Baiman, director of budget and policy analysis at the non-partisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the sticker hikes will be a “real burden for low-income folks.”
Instead of across-the-board sticker hikes, Baiman said Emanuel should try a “congestion tax” for motorists driving in the loop during business hours. The city of London currently has a congestion tax, Baiman said.
“This would mostly hit suburban commuters – the group that the city needs to tax,” he said.
Baiman added a congestion tax would, “reduce congestion, increase public transit and fares, reduce taxes on low-income city residents and be good for the environment.”
Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza said she opposes the mayor’s across-the-board sticker hike.
Her position remains the same as when the mayor’s budget was unveiled – she opposes the sticker fee increases, said Kristine Williams, media relations and program director for the city clerk, in an e-mailed statement.
However, Mendoza recognizes the importance of maintaining community services, such as restoring library hours, and supports the mayor in his efforts to do so, Williams added
“But, let me reiterate, her position remains the same,” she said.
“She is not in favor of a fee increase at all.”
Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), Ald Jason Ervin (28th) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) did not respond to interview requests for this article; they approved the sticker increases when they voted for the city’s new budget Nov. 16.
No one from the Austin Chamber of Commerce could be reached for a comment on how the sticker increase may affect West Side businesses.