Evanston aldermen managed to hold the property tax levy flat for this year, something you may hear about from candidates seeking re-election next month.

But the City Council’s longer term track record is a lot more painful for taxpayers.

Only once before in the last dozen years has the council managed to hold the line on property taxes from one year to the next.

And, for the period as a whole, property taxes have gone up at nearly twice the rate of inflation, a trend that has accelerated slightly during the term of the current City Council.

The property tax is the city’s largest single source of revenue, but brings in less than 20 percent of all the city’s income.

(The tax year marked on the chart is the year the tax was levied, or ordered, by the council. That tax is paid by taxpayers the following year. So the 2012 levy funds the city’s 2013 budget. Data for the chart is taken from annual city budget documents available online and from the inflation calculator of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Look at the growth in D65 & D202

    So much comment is made about the City's property taxes, yet D65 and D202 make up about 2/3rds of our property tax bills and that fact hardly gets any discussion at all. I guess they're so much better run…

    1. School taxes

      Hi John,

      The school districts are limited by state law to increasing taxes by, essentially, no more than the increase in the consumer price index.

      The city, because it is exempt from that tax cap, can increase the property tax levy as much as it wants, That makes the choices city officials make regarding their tax levy inherently of more interest to taxpayers.

      The city could go hog wild if it chose, the schools are far more constrained.

      It does not follow, however, that the schools are necessarily better run — only that they can't increase the squeeze they put on taxpayers from one year to the next by as large a percentage as the city can.

      — Bill

  2. CPI can also be deceiving

    Inflation, as measured by CPI, is a measure of consumer costs. The city's costs can be different. For example, the city buys lots of transportation, but little housing.

  3. CPI not an accurate reflection of the rate of inflation

    If you read the comments regularly, you'll know that I'm the first to comment on the city spending in the form of loans/grants to private businesses.

    However, as much as I would love to use Bill's graphs to prove my points that these loans don't work, the CPI as reported by the federal government is not a completely forthcoming portrait of inflation, even though this is what it is supposed to be.   The way the CPI is calculated has changed several times over the past few years.

    Another way to gauge inflation is to look at the cost of gold. Gold has a  production rate that moves relatively mimicks population growth.  As more dollars are put into circulation, the price goes up.  Recently, the price of gold has gone down due to the big banks buying a massive quantity of short options, which drive the price down.

    My point is that the reader should take the CPI as reported with a grain of salt.


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