Evanston aldermen Monday approved on a 6-3 vote a 2012 city budget that calls for total spending of $250 million, up 11 percent from the last 12-month budget two years ago.

That’s an increase roughly twice the rate of inflation during the same time period.

The new budget will mean a year-over-year increase of 4.62 percent in the city’s property tax levy. That figure is down from an original estimate of 7.91 percent because aldermen voted to rely more on fee increases rather than the property tax to close their budget gap.

It’s also down slightly from a more recent estimate of a 4.91 percent property tax increase, because city officials now anticipate receiving extra money from a surcharge on sewer fees for not-for-profit property owners that will reduce the debt service cost on sewer bonds.

The votes against the budget came from:

  • Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who said she believes it overestimates revenue from the real estate transfer tax and underestimates the likely revenue loss from residents switching to smaller garbage carts to avoid a rate hike.
  • Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said she was wanted to add back two jobs — a forestry division secretary and a zoning officer position — that were cut in the budget.
  • Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who didn’t explain why he voted no, but has previously called for more spending cuts, while at the same time advocating smaller increases in recreation program fees.

While other local taxing bodies are limited by state-imposed tax caps to raising their spending no more than the rate of inflation — 1.5 percent for next year’s budgets — the city, as a home rule municipality, faces no limit on its ability to raise taxes and fees, other than the possible wrath of the voters at the next aldermanic election in 2013.

Some aldermen voiced concerns about the fairness of fee hikes they were approving.

Fiske said she was concerned about the equity of the fee increases, and Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she didn’t believe it was fair to increase garbage cart fees from $10.95 to $14.95 a month.

Top: Alderman Judy Fiske. Above: Alderman Ann Rainey.

The city is working to try to promote affordable housing, Rainey said, but people who need affordable housing can’t afford the increase in garbage pickup and other fees.

“We shouldn’t be increasing fees on necessities,” she said, claiming “this is the worst budget” in terms of burdening lower income people in the community.

But earlier in the evening, at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Rainey suggested creating a new fee.

“There’s no reason library cards should be free,” Rainey said. “The time has come where we’ll have to start looking at charging for everything,” she added.

Currently the library recovers only about 10 percent of its operating costs from overdue book fines and other charges — far less than the cost of service recovery rate for many other city departments.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Don Wilson is the only one who wants to save?

    So only 3 voted no to these increases, and 2 of them only voted no because they wanted to spend more?

    This is out of control spending.

      My family income has been slashed this year, along with everyone else's- and these fees keep going up.  The city council needs to get a grip.'

    Alderman Rainey seems to have a personal issue against libraries at this point. With libraries taking up less than 1% of the budget, it is sort of silly that she puts her focus so much on them.

    How about discussing the cost of labor? 

    Why do city employees continue getting raises right now, when the rest of us are all getting salaries cut?

    New leadership next election!

  2. Library Card Fee

    Creating a new library card fee is the worst idea I have heard in a while.  I'd rather have a Tilted Kilt in town.

  3. It is becoming difficult to

    It is becoming difficult to justify the high tax rates in Evanston and the counter-rational city salary increases, no matter how meager, given the decreasing income levels of residents. While it must be difficult to manage the affairs of a city that tries to maintain its relatively expensive reputation despite decreasing revenues, I specifically disagree with the city buying commercial property (Howard Street "theater") and funding commercial building facade renovations. That seems to be a fundamental fiduciary failure or at least misguided efforts.

    The city must undertand this is a zero-sum game. That is, by spending in one place, you must cut in another. Their collective reaction has been to raise taxes to avoid the hard decisions they were elected to make. That they routinely fail to do that is, at best, poor judgement and a failure to ensure the economic well-being of the city's future.

    I agree with the statement that Alderman Wilson represents at least one thinking and practical vote on that august panel.

  4. Are there sane Council members left?

    They should be cutting instead of increasing the costs.   They seem to want to make Evanston a city to avoid.

    Without NU, I doubt there would be many people left.  Shopping, taxes, schools and crime certainly won't draw people.

  5. Come to the council meetings

    Those of you who really don't like what is going on at city hall should actually take time to appear in person and say something at the council meetings.

    There are many citizens who go to the council meetings and other city meetings on a regular basis and complain about the money the city wastes and the ever increasing taxes.

    Get off your ass and come to the meetings.



    1. Hostile

      No need for the hostility Mike.  This is a Evanston news website which encourages comments.  How do you know who here does or does not attend the council meeting?  Please keep in mind that there are many avenues available for citizens to voice displeasure.

    2. I wish I could come to meetings, but I have a job.. and kids..

      I would love to come to meetings!  However, I work all day long in order to help pay the taxes to live in this town.  Then, I have to come home, cook dinner for my kids, and clean the house.  At the end of the day, if I'm chosing between complaining at city council or spending time with my kids, the kids win.  

          This is why we get to have elections- to put people in power that will vote for us.  Unfortunately, I don't see my alderman listening to my voice at all.   Instead, some of his emails back to my opinions are downright rude.

        I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one in this situation.  There is a reason why only retired people attend city council, and it's not because the 30-50 year olds in town don't care.

        Time to elect new representation.



      1. Wait till next year when we get a 10% property tax increase:

        I understand why so few residents come to council, the meetings are long, a staff and council members waste alot of time.  There are a few regulars who continue to go, I do not recommend others come all the time, but I will recommend next year- after they put out the budget you should go speak once.

        I do not recommend you waste any time at Wally's show and tells on the budget, Wally is doing what he wants any way. 

        Council members do listen, If the room was full of 100 angry residents demanding they hold the line on taxes, it would have an impact. But I would recommend this happen next year , closer to budget,

        The few of us who go will keep on pointing out how they are wasting money, sometimes it works, about 3 months along they kill a study by the water department to spend $25,000 on consultants after I spoke.

        Recently they refused to give me information under the Freedom of information act, I spoke about it and a council member has now acted on it, and they will be giving me the information.

        I think they listen but you must remember they have others telling them to waste money. I believe next year Wally is going to be asking for a very large tax increase 10% to 15% – some council members have told me they believe the city has cut enough and can not cut more, so I do think it is important to speak.


        1. Run for Mayor?

          Ponzi- DO you have any interest in being mayor or alderman?  THe issue is finding good candidates for next time too-

          Who wants to do it?


    3. I have a job too Jen

      I run my own business.  I have a family including two teen age boys.  I start my day early and end my day late. I still find time to voice my opinions at city hall, where is might count.  I too have had it with taxes in Evanston.  Personally, I am at my wits end.

      1. I hear you at being at wits end!

        Ha Ha! I totally hear you at being at your wits end!  11% increases in property taxes in two years?! 60% raises in state tax!  Increasing in national tax looming next year!  Metra tickets up, garbage collection up, water rates up, gas up..  Everything up except my family's pay!

          My kids are still little.  But I do see your point of getting to the city council once in a while.  It's unfortunate that emailing the alderman and mayor is no longer an adequate option. 

  6. Taxes

    I live in Wilmette because of lower taxes, but I work in Evanston and would prefer to live in Evanston if the same condo weren't taxed twice a much here. I have no pension plan and I haven't had a salary increase since Jan. 2008 "due to the economy," says the boss. 

    Yet city employees' salaries and their overly-generous pension plans keep extorting ever-higher and higher taxes from the kindly residents here.

    And the City Council, anxious to remain in the good graces of the staff, seems totally unaware that they are hurting those very people — Evanston voters — they were elected to serve.

    With a majority of Evanston families experiencing the financial pain of jobs lost or hours cut, with Social Security payments frozen for pensioners the last three years, with residents being evicted from their foreclosed homes — while all the expenses for food, doctor-dentist, hospital bills, health insurance, state taxes and transportation have been skyrocketing — one would think the alderpersons long ago would have started to face a few realities here and at least held the line on salaries and benefits.

    The council's "Let Them Eat Cake" attitude reflects poorly on this city I love and it's people.

  7. Council members who voted no

    Council members who voted no on budget approval need to do the same about Wally.  Voite no some more.

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