In a split vote Monday, Evanston aldermen decided to raise a self-imposed city debt limit — but not as much as staff had proposed.

City staff had recommended changing the council’s policy on general obligation debt to be paid from property tax revenue from $90 million to $120 million.

But aldermen voted to set the limit at $113 million instead.

And only six of the eight aldermen present for the meeting were willing to go even that high.

The City Council had previously voted to issue more debt in recent years than allowed under the old limit, and Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons projected that as a result of continuing borrowing for sewer improvement projects the debt total would reach neary $113 million by next year, before starting to decline a bit in 2014.

Lyons argued that to maintain the confidence of bond rating agencies the council should set a limit that was no lower than the amount of debt it actually expects to issue.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the city’s debt level, compared to other municipalities, is quite high.

“We’re continuing to live way beyond our means,” Burrus said, adding that the city needs to find ways to “pay as we go” on city project.s

But Lyons noted that the equalized assessed valuation of property in the city has increased substantially since the old debt limit was set. So debt, as a percentage of property value, has been declining, he added.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she favored the $113 million limit. “I think we all are committed to reducing borrowing,” Holmes said, “but we have to be realistic about our current debt level.”

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, joined Burrus in voting against the debt limit increase.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. City Debt Limit – How did each of the aldermen vote?

    Your article emphasizes the split vote, but only lists how a few of the aldermen voted. Evanston only has 9 aldermen. Can you provide complete information about which ones were present and how they voted?

    1. Who voted how

      The story mentions the two no votes — Burrus and Wilson.

      Rainey was absent from the meeting.

      All others voted for the $113M limit.

      — Bill

  2. So, aldermen, what shall the

    So, aldermen, what shall the residents of Evanston give up now in order to pay the property tax increase? At some point there won't be anything left for us to give up. Why can't the City give up some things like we have to do?

  3. Debt ceiling

    I don't know why people are upset about raising the debt ceiling; after all, it's just what is going on in the "Hope and Change" city of Washington DC. Spend, spend, spend, you Democrats, like there's no tomorrow and guess what, there might NOT be!!

    1. Bonds for schools and debt

      If the March vote on the proposed new school is passed [which is doubtful] or the city finds some underhanded way to go ahead with it anyway, or they want to rasie funds for other school needs and most importantly funding for any of the debt of the city which limit they just increased, they should be forced to pay no more than 3% for any of these [and others the Council dreams up].

      The rating of AAA means nothing—as we saw in the last few years with ratings for CDO of various types and banks/mortgage firms and as now the agencies admit that investors should not rely on for 'soundness' of the institution/derivative.

      I'm sure Evanston school Board members hope to get some of the Illinois portion of 'Race to the Top' but face it if the state let alone the federal government has looked at how the Board has acted [pensions, salaries, perks, offices, contracts, etc.], we cannot expect to get any—it would be justly seen as going down the same hole instead of real education.

  4. Time to reform the City Council

    Meanwhile, aldermen keep approving pay raises for city union employees.

    Labor costs are the biggest expense item in the budget and nothing but a 17 percent city tax increase in the past two years, closing branch libraries and now a $23 million hike in the debt limit.

    Time for a BIG change next election. Yes we can.


Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *