City Manager Luke Stowe unveiled a proposed 2023 Evanston city budget Monday afternoon that calls for a 4% increase in property taxes and a nearly 12% jump in total city spending.

City staff estimate the property tax increase will add $64 to the city’s share of the tax bill for a home with an assessed valuation of $300,000.

Dave Stoneback, in an online meeting with reporters to discuss the budget proposal.

Much of the increase in total spending is the result of capital improvement projects at the city’s water plant that Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback says are expected to be paid for by revenue from the other communities that Evanston sells water to, rather than by Evanston residents.

The city’s property tax levy has increased nearly 25% over the past six years — although it was held steady in the 2022 city budget.

Stowe said, “We do have a couple of council members that are interested” in having no property tax increase for 2023, but “others are more interested in providing some additional programs and services.”

“We put forward this draft budget, and will continue to seek feedback from the council and the community,” he added.

Hitesh Desai.

The city’s chief financial officer, Hitesh Desai, said the city has built up substantial surpluses in several funds and will be deficit budgeting in those funds next year to bring down those balances.

Of the $402 million in projected spending, only $371 million is expected to be covered by 2023 revenue — meaning the city would spend about $31 million from reserves in various funds.

But Desai says the budget turmoil during the pandemic has led officials to conclude that the city’s current policy of maintaining a two-month reserve in the general fund — or 16.67% of projected annual spending — is not quite sufficient.

So the budget proposes starting a three-year process of raising the general fund reserve level to 20% by 2025 by taking it to 18% next year.

City revenues have been increasing this year — but Desai says that’s largely a result of high inflation rates, which will also increase the city’s costs going forward.

The budget calls for a 4.5% across-the-board wage increase for non-union employees. The city is also negotiating new contracts with its four employee unions to replace agreements that expire at the end of this year.

The budget calls for adding 22.5 new and restored positions to the general fund, including seven new firefighter/paramedics to allow full staffing of the city’s third ambulance.

While the city plans to work to fill 27 open positions in the Police Department, Stowe says the budget does not call for restoring another dozen police jobs that were cut from the budget in the Spring of 2020.

The City Council is scheduled to have its first discussion of the budget during a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 17.

Various public hearings and community meetings will follow, with the Council scheduled to approve a final budget before Thanksgiving.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. The Levy has increased 25% over six years! Thats wild. It seems disingenuous to me to hear over and over and over again “we need more money to provide adequate services” while the level of service seems only to go down year after year. Why isn’t it working? Pay more and get less.

    I look at our sidewalks, at the condition of our City facilities, at the condition of our parks and park equipment, and its all worse than our neighbors. Why? We have money and boy do we spend money. Look at any given council agenda. We just don’t spend it on the things that matter or make a difference in a residents day-to-day quality of life. Priorities. Make it make sense please.

  2. Evanstons property taxes are absurd. Evanston needs to be realistic and gave the fact the Evanstons current brand of do-gooder super socialism city isn’t sustainable. Evanston is going to force many of the middle class people who don’t get the freebies and can’t afford the big homes to leave to Arlington heights, Wilmette or Chicago (all of which are less expensive to live in).

  3. Evanston already has some of the highest property tax in the area. It is pricing lower middle class and below out of their homes. For a community that spouts equity how is this equitable?

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