City Council voted Monday to slash proposed capital improvement program spending next year from $33.4 million to $18.7 million.

The cuts were recommended by City Engineer Lara Biggs, who said several projects in the original staff proposal are unlikely to get underway until 2025.

The change trims the overall city budget from $449 million to $434 million — which would still be a record high.

The capital spending cuts push roadway improvement projects on Chicago Avenue and Green Bay Road and consulting work regarding the civic center, the service center and police-fire headquarters off for another year.

At least some reductions in the capital spending proposal had been anticipated since early in the budget season, because of a lack of staff to manage all the projects.

Juan Geracaris.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said he’s happy with the proposed cuts and thanked staff for recommending them.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the city can’t put off everything forever, and projects done later will cost more. The city has capital needs that far exceed its ability to pay for them, Nieuwsma added.

But Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said the city typically spends $10 million a year on capital improvements, and that even with Monday’s reductions it will still be spending nearly twice that next year.

In other budget developments, council members voted to keep a new full-time staff position designed to give them administrative help, while phasing out a part-time contract position for the same service.

They declined to make any reductions in the 15 new staff positions city staff had proposed for next year’s budget — which will bring city staff size to 885 full-time-equivalent workers — 11% larger than it was when the current council took office in 2021.

Devon Reid.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) proposed that — as a way to reduce the planned 7.9% property tax increase — the council adopt a range of new taxes and fees. He persuaded a majority of the council to schedule six of those ideas for discussion at their Nov. 27 meeting.

Those proposals include:

  • A fire service fee targeted at large non-profits like Northwestern University.
  • A tax on third-party food delivery services.
  • A delivery fleet tax that would hit companies like Amazon and UPS.
  • Increased licensing fees for long term care facilities and restaurants.
  • Doubling the residential on-street parking permit fee from $30 to $60.
  • Increasing the motor fuel tax rate from 5-cents to 6-cents per gallon.

The budget is currently scheduled for final adoption at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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