A new budget plan from the city calls for a 49 percent increase in capital fund spending next year.

The staff proposal, presented to aldermen Monday night, would spend $42.7 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, up from $28.6 million this year.

The biggest single increase would be for construction and repair of public buildings. That fund goes from $1.5 to $6.2 million, mainly to pay for replacing Fire Station #5 on Central Street in northwest Evanston.

The budget proposes spending $18.4 million on continuing improvements to city’s water and sewer system, up from $14.7 million this year.

The budget also creates a new $2.7 million category of Economic Development expenses for downtown streetscape improvements.

Spending on projects to update the city’s parks would more than double, to $1.9 million.

Other major increases include a $810,000 first-year installment on a 10-year plan to improve the emergency telephone system.

The city would spend $10.6 million on street and alley projects and new city vehicles, up 6.5 percent from last year.

Spending on new computers and other information technology needs would increase 8.9 percent, to $1.1 million.

The budget outlines more tentative plans for spending an average of $23.5 million in each of the following four years and identifies $137 million in additional capital improvements on the city’s wish list for further down the road.

The staff proposal calls for issuing $10 million in general obligation bonds each year to fund part of the capital improvement budget, with the rest coming from a variety of other budget accounts as well as federal and state grants.

Part of the funding for the extra spending next year would come from a $2 million one-time transfer of cash from the debt service fund balance.

The council heard last night from advocates of public arts programs who suggested devoting one percent of all capital fund spending to public art, and from Mark Metz of the Playground and Recreation Board, who said the city now upgrades its playground facilities on average only once every 18 years.

He said upgraded parks are important to keeping neighborhoods vibrant and he suggested moving toward a 12-year interval for playground upgrades.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she’d like the staff to review the proposed increase in arts funding and said she favored shortening the cycle for park renovations.

Aldermen offered a variety of other suggestions for budget modifications and agreed to schedule a special meeting to review the budget proposal.

Related links
City of Evanston – 2007-08 Capital Improvement Program
City of Evanston – Revised 2006-07 Capital Budget

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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