Evanston aldermen, who pointed to holding the line on property taxes earlier this year as they campaigned for re-election, are about to return to their old ways of raising those taxes at roughly twice the rate of inflation.

The City Council tonight is scheduled to vote on property tax levies for next year that total $44.7 million, up from $42.5 million this year.

That’s a tax increase of 5.2 percent — compared to an increase so far this year in the consumer price index of just 2 percent.

With the new levy, Evanston property taxes will have risen 71 percent since 2000, while the overall cost of living has gone up 36 percent.

The City Council won’t adopt its budget for the coming year until later this month, but so far there’s been no sign of signficant dissent among the aldermen to the budget prepared by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, or to the tax hikes it will require.

The biggest single increase this year is being forced on taxpayers by the city’s unelected library board, which is demanding a massive spending increase.

But taxation to service the city’s debt will also increase significantly, while taxes to support the public safety pension funds will decrease slightly. Taxation for general fund purposes will rise less than 1 percent.

The tax levy will be discussed tonight at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

It is set for final approval at a City Council meeting later this month or early in December.

(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 2013 levy funds the city’s 2014 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. Chicago’s Debt Downgraded again

    Chicago Crains carried the following discouraging story. The "fiscal health" of Chicago has an impact on Evanston, Cook County and the State of Illinois. While our political leaders will hope for job and income growth, businesses will continue to underinvest in Illinois. Hopefully our "leadership" in Evanston takes notice. Read the story and think about the implications:


    Chicago was downgraded three notches today by another credit rating agency, with a negative outlook clouded by pension liabilities and a struggling economy.

    Fitch Ratings dropped the city's $8 billion in unlimited tax general obligation bonds to A- from AA-, along with $497.3 million in bonds backed by sales taxes.

    The city's $200 million commercial paper notes dropped three notches, to BBB, from A+, putting them two notches above junk bond status.

    The move puts Fitch in line with the rating Moody's Investors Service imposed in July,, when it lowered Chicago's general obligation bonds three notches to A3.

    Standard & Poor's Corp. rates the city's debt two notches higher, at A+, but its outlook changed to negative in September.

    Fitch said the city's recently proposed 2014 balance budget appears to be “achievable” with a variety of recurring and one-time revenue increases. “However, Fitch will not consider the city's financial operations to be structurally balanced until recurring revenues support recurring expenditures, including actuarially based pension costs,” the agency said.

    If Chicago and other local governments raised property taxes to cover the annual required pension contribution, with no reduction in benefits, payers would face a 35 percent tax increase, according to Fitch, which "believes such an increase could present stress to the local economy, which has been slow to recover from the recession."

  2. There is more to this than property taxes!

    Wally and his friends are not just going to be raising property taxes over 5%!  They are going to be be raising the water rates 10% and they are upping the trash fees, so the increase is even larger.  Things are starting to run out of control again!

    Remember he just hired a new arts coordinator from the fossil capital of the country, I guess we have to pay for all of his hiring and PR positions.

    Wally claims he has eliminate many positions yet when you look at the graph , it tells a different story.


  3. Call your Councilperson

    Whether you like your city council representative or not, call them and tell them that there should be no property tax increase without an equal decrease in other areas. Their jobs should depend on it. Property taxes in Evanston are so out of control, no business will want to move here unless the city gives them a grant or builds them a parking lot.

    You should also tell them that Wally needs to go, no contract extension and no bonus and no salary increase and a zero dollar spending limit without council approval. The next outlandish thing Wally will want to do is hire a cultural arts director and buy a propaganda bus.

    The library spending is also out of control. The library appears to be doing all kinds of things that are not traditional library functions. It, like Wally, comes across as empire builders. They want to make sure that they go down in history as people that went beyond expectations, no matter how much it costs the people they are suppose to serve.

    Stop the unnecessary spending.



  4. Restaurants won’t save Evanston

    The Council seems to think that they can brag about new restaurants [many actually have short lives] and the city budget will be o.k.—of course heavily supplemented by tax increases. They pushed manufacturing out, they pushed retail stores out, they pushed services out, they pushed start-ups out [note how fast they leave after their Incubator time is up]. If not for zoning and 'appropriateness'] hearings that last forever and kept Sears out, nuisance inspections/regulations that have nothing to do with safety, we might actually have some manufacturing left to pull the city budget/pensions out of the fire. If we had a shopping area and selections, people would not have to go to Skokie, Chicago, Niles and Woodfield to shop and the taxes would be Evanston's instead of those places and horror of horrors our residents would have jobs—-instead of needing food stamps and other supplements and beable to pay for their own housing, food, medical/dental [as well as have it]. But then how could the Council tell them at election time how 'they had taken care of them'—-more plantation politics. NU students may seem oblivious to the reality of taxes, noise levels and other things residents complain about—-but at least sub-conscientiously they do notice the problems and when it comes to deciding where to live, they will say good-buy to Evanston. Faculty learned this and NU staff not only learned this but can't afford Evanston.

  5. The spending goes on…

    It is really unbelievable to watch the taxes and fees skyrocket in Evanston, while the city council, mayor and city manager write out checks to various businesses.

    I was born in Evanston and the University has always had the city government in it's pocket. With no serious effort to find ways to make the University pay it's own way, it is clear that Mayor Tisdahl and, perhaps, some of the others, will be receiving their honorary doctorates just as the Lorraine Morton did upon completion of her term.

    Sell NU the  fire station on Central and let them handle their own calls just like the other BIG TEN universities. And, the city could also assess a student head tax just like many other universities do.

    The Universioty exemption is on property taxes and that's it. Get creative on their fees and maybe business will be able locate here and do something other than provide gourmet dining to the well to do.

  6. I’m a fan of NU, but I’d like a PILOT

    Northwestern University contributes a lot to Evanston in many, many ways. However, having said that, given the financial constraints confronting the City of Evanston, I think it's time for a PILOT, Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Many other communities with colleges are facing similar issues and many Universities are making a cash payment. For example, I believe Harvard, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, Yale, and other colleges participate in PILOTs. Here is a report on PILOTs:

    Why doesn't Evanston analyze this issue and make a proposal to NU?

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