Evanston’s City Council made some last minute nips and tucks in the new city budget Monday night before approving it unanimously.

Evanston’s City Council made some last minute nips and tucks in the new city budget Monday night before approving it unanimously.

The aldermen agreed to increase estimated building permit revenue by $100,000, which let them trim the planned property tax increase to 2.92 percent.

The city gets about 20 percent of a homeowner’s total property tax bill. City staff estimate that the new budget will add about $46 to the tab for someone now paying $8,000 in real estate taxes.

Going into the meeting the proposed increase had been 3.16 percent – down from an original proposal by the city manager of a nearly 7 percent boost.

The earlier reduction was made by tapping budget reserves and increasing various other taxes and fees.

The aldermen also bit on an offer from an anonymous doner to contribute $60,000 toward the cost of setting up a police K-9 unit. The gift will cover the first year cost of the dog patrol, but leaves the city leashed to spending perhaps $120,000 a year on it in the future, Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said.

E-mail anxiety
Several aldermen said they’d received angry e-mail messages from residents after a story in the Evanston Review noted that the city is including in the budget building permit revenue from projects that haven’t yet been approved.

“The media have been somewhat irresponsible,” Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “They’ve reduced this to a simple scare tactic.” He said opponents of controversial projects had concluded from the story that aldermen have already made up their minds to approve them.

“That’s not the way the business is run,” Ald. Jean-Baptiste said, “Each year we have to make certain projections, and they keep the citizenry from paying as much tax as they would have to if we didn’t show these revenue projections.”

Community Development Director James Wolinski said he’d left some projects out of the projections and included others, as he’s done every year. “My estimates are usually on the conservative side,” he said. “For the current year I projected $3.1 million in building permit revenue, and we should end up right about that.”

Ald. Moran said, “Developing a budget is not pure science. A little art gets folded into it.” The council, he said, still may reject projects included in the budget projections.

Nickels, dimes and big bucks

To balance the budget the aldermen also vote to increase:

  • The recycling collection service charge that appears on city water bills from $2.86 to $3.72 per month.
  • The senior citizen taxi coupon rate from $2 to $2.50.
  • The cigarette tax from 32 to 50 cents per pack.
  • The late penalty for various parking fines.
  • The fee for processing tax-exempt property transfers from $20 to $100.
  • The building permit fee for projects valued at over $1 million from 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent of the project’s value.

The new budget takes effect on Wednesday.

Related link:
Daily Northwestern – City passes ’06 budget, addresses taxes, fees

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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