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City revenue gap grows by $1.4 million

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Evanston aldermen will be told Monday that the city’s anticipated revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic has grown by $1.4 million in the past month to $12 million.

But city staff say they’ve managed to close most of the extra gap through a combination of holding more positions vacant and the timely receipt of some additional funds.

In a memo to auldermen CFO Hitesh Desai says some revenue projections in three categories are actually looking better that previously predicted — with smaller shortfalls projected for the home rule sales tax, the liquor tax and building permits.

Sales of more packaged liquor have partially offset the loss of liquor revenue from restaurant and bar closures.

Building permit revenue now is expected to hit budget projections because of receipt of paymants for a few large permits for planned developments and the continuation of residential construction activity.

But seven other revenue sources are looking worse than before — the state income tax, the municpal hotel tax, the parking tax, the amusement tax, parking tickets, the athletic contest tax and the auto rental tax.

Notable issues there include the complete closure of many hotels for months and expected low demand through the year and the potential evaporation of revenue from Northwestern University football games.

Desai says that Interim City Manager Erika Storlie’s decision to continue a hiring freeze has increased projected savings from that source by more than $600,000 to a little over $3 million

The city has also benefited from a nearly $600,000 advance payment from the Friends of the Robert Crown Center and a $254,000 COVID-19 related state grant to cover costs for existing contact tracing employees in the Health Department.

And it’s shifted funding for a portion of the cost of maintaning the Dutch Elm disease treatment program from the general fund to the capital fund.

However, even assuming police and fire unions agreed to furlough days proposed by the city to save another $900,000, that still leaves a budget hole of nearly $500,000 unfilled — even assuming the pandemic doesn’t add any additional strain to the budget.

Earlier this year Storlie had estimated that the COVID-19 crisis could potentially create as much as a $20 million revenue shortfall.

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