Evanston’s proposed 2024 city budget calls for a 7.9% property tax increase and a 13% boost in total spending.
In the budget documents, released Friday, City Manager Luke Stowe says the property tax hike is needed to cover the cost of new four-year contract agreements reached this year with the city’s four employee unions.
The proposed budget would add 20 new full-time-equivalent positions to the city staff, bringing the total city FTE headcount to 895.
The property tax hike is projected to add $3.7 million in new revenue, but the budget calls for spending down more than $10 million in general fund reserves to cover many of the new expenses.
The city is projected to end 2023 with general fund reserves of $52 million and the budget document projects that — with the property tax increase — the city can continue to close much of its spending gap by using reserves through 2025.
Without the tax hike, it estimates, the extra reserves would be exhausted — falling below the 16.66% of general fund spending called for by the city’s budget policy, by the end of next year.
The city did not issue general obligation bonds last year or this year, funding projects out of reserves on hand. But with reserves diminishing, the budget calls for issuing $43.5 million in bonds next year.
The budget document includes data for 2021 from Cook County that indicates the composite property tax rate for municipal services plus school districts, park districts, library districts and townships, was higher in many nearby communities than it is in Evanston.
The data indicates that the owner-occupant of a $400,000 home that year would have paid $9,780 in property taxes in Evanston, but $13,726 in Oak Park and $11,194 in Skokie. Of the dozen communities listed in addition to Evanston, only Wilmette had a lower tax burden at $9,488.
The City Council is scheduled to have its first discussion about the budget at a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16.