City officials say that, despite the gloomy national economy, they’re on track to bring this year’s city budget in on target.

Finance Director Marty Lyons said housing sales have declined dramatically and prices have also slipped, knocking a big hole in the city’s real estate transfer tax revenue.

But he said that otherwise Evanston’s economy seems to be holding up better than the nation’s. Even building permit fees are expected to meet their budget target here.

Planning Director Dennis Marino said three sizable institutional and commercial projects — the Evanston Hospital cancer center, a construction project at Northwestern University, and work to renovate the 1603 Orrington tower’s plaza — are expected to begin work before the fiscal year ends next February.

Lyons said state income tax revenue is running a bit higher than expected and other tax revenue is only slightly below budget projections.

He said the city has been hit by higher commodity costs — especially for road salt and fuel.

The city has managed to trim costs by not filling some vacant jobs, he said, and noted that the number of authorized full-time equivalent positions on the city payroll has declined from 883 two years ago to 854 this year.

He said, “We will do everything within our control” to see that expenses for the year match revenues received and said he expects the city to end the fiscal year with a $14 million unreserved fund balance.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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