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Council trims property tax boost, hikes fees

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Evanston aldermen Monday moved toward trimming the proposed 2012 property tax hike from 8 to 5 percent by raising parking meter rates, trash fees and parking violation fines.

Parking meter rates will soon be more taxing.

Evanston aldermen Monday moved toward trimming the proposed 2012 property tax hike from 8 to 5 percent by raising parking meter rates, trash fees and parking violation fines.

They also voted to restore four forestry worker jobs slated for elimination by the city manager.

Meters

Aldermen voted 8-1 to raise parking meter rates by 25-cents an hour — to $1 downtown and 75-cents in other areas — a proposal introduced by Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward.

City staff estimated that it could take until April 1 to implement the meter rate change and that having the increase in effect for nine months would bring in about $525,000 in new revenue.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who owns a pet supply store downtown, cast the only vote against the increase. She said higher rates would lead to fewer customers making shorter shopping trips.

Fiske also argued for making rates the same across all business districts, but Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, defended the disparity, saying some outlying business districts "aren't as strong as downtown," and it's easier for people there to park nearby while avoiding the meters.

The downtown rate increase will make meter rates there match rates in the city's three downtown parking garages.

Tickets

The aldermen voted 5-4 to increase fines for all parking tickets except those for expired meters by $5. That proposal, introduced by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, is expected to raise about $300,000.

Aldermen Braithwaite, Fiske, Wilson and Wynne voted against that increase.

The aldermen rejected the idea of raising fines for meter violation, which could have added another $230,000 in revenue.

Trash

The aldermen also voted 5-4 to raise the rates charged for garbage pickup. Fees for a large, 95-gallon refuse cart would rise $2 to $12.95 a month, while the rate for a small, 65-gallon cart would increase $1 to $7.95 a month.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said the larger increase for the bigger carts would be "environmentally progressive" because residents could choose to recycle more and use the smaller carts.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, initially objected to any increase in the small cart fee and Alderman Don Wilson initially had proposed a bigger increase — as much as $4 for large carts and at least $1.50 for the smaller ones.

The numbers finally approved were proposed by Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward.

Aldermen Braithwaite, Fiske, Holmes and Rainey voted against the version that was adopted.

City staff estimates the large cart increase will rase $336,000 while the small cart increase will generate $50,000.

Forestry

The aldermen voted unanimously to restore the jobs of the four forestry workers. That move is expected to add $140,000 to the city's expenses, compared to the outsourcing contract City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had proposed.

Special budget meeting tonight

With the council meeting running past 11:15 p.m., aldermen deferred discussion of several additional budget adjustments to a special meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. this evening, at which Bobkiewicz promised to present a one-page summary of how to balance the budget while trimming the property tax increase.

Update 12:05 p.m. 11/15/11: Late this morning we learned that there's uncertainty among city staff about whether the vote to raise the 95-gallon trash container rate was for a $2 or a $4 increase. They're checking the DVD of the council meeting now to try to sort it out what was a fast-moving discussion among the aldermen.

Update 5:45 p.m. 11/15/11: The city's community information coordinator, Eric Palmer, now says that, after reviewing the tape, the vote was to raise the 95-gallon trash container rate by $4. That would raise $772,000 in new revenue, assuming the increase is made effective Jan. 1.

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