City staff will ask Evanston aldermen Monday to increase by 33 percent the limit they’ve set by policy on general obligation debt funded by property taxes.

The increase is designed to pave the way for a planned $17 million in borrowing for sewer improvement projects.

The increase would raise the limit on property-tax funded general obligation debt from $90 million to $120 million.

Evanston carries a relatively high debt load compared to most similar municipalities in Illinois, a fact that’s drawn notice from debt rating agencies in the past.

Data in a staff memo indicates that the city debt per resident in Evanston is just over $3,250 — the third highest among 13 communities the memo compares.

Per capita debt levels in the other towns ranged from a low of $408 in Joliet to a high of $4,239 in Schaumburg. The average was $1,955 — more than a third less than in Evanston.

The city’s total debt level has declined somewhat in recent years, dropping from $304 million in 2005-06 to $242 million in 2010-11. But it had been less than $90 million in 1991-92.

The memo didn’t include a forecast of what the city’s total debt level is likely to be in future years.

Related document

Memo on proposed debt limit increase

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Proposed Debt Limit Hike

    We taxpayers have to decide what to do without in order to pay our taxes. Why can't the city do the same in order to do what needs to be done. Perhaps some programs duplicated by our many local churches should be eliminated. Maybe more park programs could have fees for participants. At any rate, STOP SPENDING MORE MONEY.

  2. Debt Limit Raised – No

    It is not a good time to borrow unless you can get a lower interest rate and then use the money to payoff older costlier debt. It is a good time to cut expenses instead of gambling on the future.

  3. Locking in Property Tax increases

    If the GO debt is funded by property taxes, doesn't raising the debt limit basically guarantee large property tax increases in the future?

  4. Debt Limit Hike

    Instead of incurring incremental debt (prevailing democratic mentality in the U.S. right now), how about reigning in costs?

    As a classic example, I watched in amazement last month as Evanston Forestry Department "workers" parked in front of my house two mornings in a row, but didn't get out of their trucks each morning for nearly one hour.  At approximately 3 p.m. both days, they got back in their trucks and sat until 4 p.m., then returned to home base.

    Besides the two hours/day sleeping in their trucks, when out of their trucks "working", I watched three of them "shadow kick boxing" in my yard multiple times, and generally just standing around talking to each other!

    This same analogy goes for the "workers" I routinely see on pothole repair duty, as they lean on their shovels, talking with their co-workers for countless minutes.

    If you as the owner of Evanston Now want to make a real impact, conduct an investigative report with a video camera, then place the video series on this web site…slacker city workers would then hopefully be trimmed from the city payrolls (and corresponding future pension obligations), and perhaps of equal importance, their managers would finally be placed on the (accountability) hot seat.

    1. Not only Forestry department-

      I've seen other City trucks with "sleeping" occupants parked for hours. Parks & Rec (driver & possibly an aide? ), Forestry, Housing (building inspector?), and even a member of our usually excellent police department.

      There used to be a regular afternoon visitor to a local apartment who parked his city-issued truck for a 2-3 hour lunch (nudge-nudge wink-wink) break.  This only stopped after the truck was reported as being abandoned after 3 hours in the same place.

      Trying to be a good citizen, and concerned with the well-being of others, I usually call either the Police non-emergency number, or if the vehicle is running 911, as the occupant may be too ill or otherwise unable to drive, or in the case of a running vehicle, there may be carbon monoxide hazards for the occupant. This seems to work well, as I have not seen the same vehicles in these places a second time.


  5. More BAD DEBT

    What few may understand this new debt is part of the city of evanston on going "Ponzi Scheme"

    That is an large amount of this debt is not going for capital work.   We as water rate payers think they are raising our water bills to cover more system upgrades.  Nothing could be farther from the truth,   For years the city has taken almost 3 million dollars out of the water fund and transfered it to the general fund.  My guess is over 33% of the water system piping could have been replaced by now with all the funds they stole from the fund.

    Also I noticed they transfer 4 million dollars out of the sewer fund and put it into the parking fund.  So as they keep on increasing everyones water bills the money is really going for basic operate expenses of the city.

    The other thing few understand, is the city is mismanaging its capital so bad, there is no accountabiltiy from year to year.  City employees can screw up the projects all they want and Wally can remove funds as he needs because the system has no controls. Its a true mess.

    Our Mayor and Council members are truely clueless, they have mostly small and silly little agendas, none of them have any interest in straighting out this mess.

    1. More Bad Debt—Fraud ?

      If this story about dipping into the water funds, does this not amount to fraud by the Council and administration and need the state to investigate ?

      We pay these high water bills and are told to pay for sewer improvements—-the same story we were told years ago of why rates were going up and would take care of the problems and eventually [2100?] result in at least stable rates.

  6. Debt, debt, debt.  The city

    Debt, debt, debt.  The city council and appointed city leaders don't seem to have any understanding of budgeting or long-term debt.  From the reports above, city employees seem to know how to punch in and out and do as little as possible between those major events.  Then add department chairs who make speeches in suits and who possibly haven't done the work of their departments for years.  It's their pensions we'll also pay for.

    How about requiring that all city employees live in Evanston?  "Oh, it's too expensive!"  That's because we have to fund the non-work ethics of employees and the pensions they'll get.  Every wage earner spends a good portion of his/her income adjacent to their living place.  Workers who don't live in Evanston are unlikely to buy their groceries and run their errands here before going home.  Yet they want us to pay for their incomes and benefits.

  7. Employee Residency

    Maybe you should look at the high taxes, the constant squabbleing of the school board, the overpaid superintendent, and the high fees the city charges, and squandering of tax dollars by the city council …. Gee, wonder why they don't live here …. Maybe someone in the rocket science department at NU can help you figure it out! 

    1. Buy Them A Mirror

      Seeing how their wages and pensions are a large portion of the tax dollars the council is "squandering, " I would hope that this sentiment isn't actually ever considered by a City employee for a single second.

      1. Employee residency

        Being that you can get twice as much house for half the price and pay half the taxes for better schools and services, I assure you more than a few city employees have thought about it, and done it!

        1. And yet

          The only thing is, and here's where the disconnect comes in, THEY are the ones providing the lackluster services! Groucho Marx's famed quote, "I would never join a club that would have me as a member," was not a positive affirmation.

          I've never been one for residency requirements, but if this really is the prevailing attitude, then maybe we should require it. You tend to care more when it will directly affect you and yours.

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