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City looks to trim property tax hike

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Evanston aldermen tonight will review budget adjustments that would reduce the overall city property tax increase next year from 5.4 to 3.5 percent — still well above the rate of inflation.

The changes come from a mix of higher-than-forecast revenue streams from some current taxes and fees, a larger than previously planned increase in building permit fees, and elimination of a few planned purchases — including a mobile city hall vehicle.

Top: Revised chart showing the new projected property tax increase for 2014. Compare a chart showing the tax hike in the original budget proposal. Above: A mobile city hall vehicle, like the Boston version shown here, is stripped from the city manager's latest budget proposal.

It also uses anticipated one-time revenue from a surge in major construction projects, mainly on the Northwestern University campus, to cover some increased debt service payments and capital improvement spending.

The remaining boost in property taxes would come from a 39 percent increase in spending attributed to the library. About half that increase represents shifting debt service and administrative overhead spending previously covered in other city accounts to library tax lines.

Under state law the appointed library board gets to set its own spending level, which is not subject to review by the City Council. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who appoints the board members, has defending the library spending increase, saying library programs have been underfunded for years.

The original budget called for increasing building permit fees by $1 per $1,000 for construction projects up to $1 million and by $2 per $1,000 for bigger projects, a move expected to generate $300,000 in new revenue. The revised plan boosts each of those increases by another 50-cents and is expected to pull in an additional $150,000.

The latest budget also anticipates reducing proposed increases in garbage collection fees.

The original budget had called for increasing fees for 95-gallon garbage carts by $4 a month and adding $2 to the fee for 65-gallon carts as well as increasing fees for yeard waste carts and yard waste stickers.

The version cuts the increase for the big carts to $3 and eliminates the rest of the increases. That's expected to reduce the revenue increase from $900,000 to $380,000 requiring an increase in the subsidy the general fund provides to the solid waste fund.

No formal action is scheduled on the 2014 budget at tonight's meeting. Adoption of the budget is scheduled for a week later, at the council's Monday, Nov. 25, meeting.


Update 6:45 a.m. 11/19/13: Please consult this story for updated numbers on the reduction in the tax levy increase.

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