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City budget sails toward adoption

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Evanston's 2013 city budget appears headed for easy adoption after aldemen wrapped up a scheduled three-hour budget meeting in under an hour Saturday and voted to cancel two other planned budget review sessions.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons told aldermen the new budget, which includes no property tax increase for the first time in several years, is expected to reverse the recent trend of the city's property tax levy representing an increasing share of homeowners' total property tax burden.

Lyons noted that the city's share of the property tax burden once was far higher than it is today — reaching a peak of more than 28 percent of the total in 1982.

But after dropping to a low of 17.84 percent in 2001, it has been on a geneally upward path for the past decade, reaching 21.62 percent in the 2011 tax levy payable this year, according to the Cook county Treasurer's office.

The city, unhampered by a state-imposed tax cap, has more flexibility in setting its tax rate than most other governmental units that appear on the property tax bill.

So, Lyons said he anticipates that the other taxing bodies are likely to increase their rates for 2012 taxes to be paid in 2013 by the 3 percent maximum allowed under the cap, which would have the effect of slightly decreasing the city's share of the total levy.

(The chart above includes Evanston Township taxes, which are set by the city's aldermen sitting as the township board, in the Evanston total. The calculations assume a homeowner who doesn't live in one of the indepenedent park districts. "Other" taxing bodies include county government, the community college district, the water reclamation district and the mosquito abatement district.)

At Saturday's budget meeting the aldermen voted to add security cameras and more lighting around Evanston Township High School.

They also moved funds for a possible crisis intervention coordinator to the city manager's reserve account, anticipating that the Mental Health Board and Health Department staff will come up with an alternate proposal for crisis intervention services in January.

And they asked staff to develop a new program to reduce the use of asphalt patches on city sidewalks.

The budget is scheduled to be adopted by the City Council Nov. 26, with the property tax levy adoption scheduled for Dec. 10.

The budget discussions scheduled for Nov. 13 and 19 were cancelled.

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