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Aldermen find nothing to cut

Evanston aldermen, who sliced the city managers proposed tax hike by more than half last year, have so far failed to make any cuts this year.

At Wednesday's budget hearing the aldermen rejected proposals to slice new positions from the library budget or close either of the city's branch libraries.

And although no formal vote was taken, it appeared a proposal from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, to reduce taxes this year by shifting $500,000 in unreserved fund balances from the water fund into the general fund had lost support after staff said the money was needed for future capital projects.

One change will increase the property tax hike this year — but will end up saving many residents a few bucks overall.

That is a decision to not raise the recycling or sanitation fee charged on the water bill from $3.72 to $5 per month — and instead raise the difference from the property tax.

Because most residents are able to deduct property taxes on their federal and state income tax, they'll ultimately pay less than when the fee appears as a non-deductible charge on the water bill.

The change also means that the fee will also be paid by local business property owners, further reducing the burden on homeowners.

But Dick Peach, owner of Dempster Auto Rebuilders, called the shift unfair — noting that property tax rates for business owners are already more than twice as high as for homeowners — and businesses have to pay private haulers to remove their garbage.

If no further changes are made, Evanston residents would see a property tax hike of 6.5 percent, compared to the 5.5 percent proposed by the city manager and a 2.9 percent increase in the current budget.

The tax increase and staffing reductions proposed by the city manager are driven largely by the need to make up for shortfalls in pension funding for city workers.

The City Council holds a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Monday.

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