Downtown tax district up for renewal

Downtown property owners could be in for a tax increase soon.

The board of EvMark, Evanston’s downtown marketing organization, meets Oct. 11 to develop a proposal for renewing the special services area agreement that boosts downtown property tax bills to pay for special maintenance and marketing services.

Downtown property owners could be in for a tax increase soon.

The board of EvMark, Evanston’s downtown marketing organization, meets Oct. 11 to develop a proposal for renewing the special services area agreement that boosts downtown property tax bills to pay for special maintenance and marketing services.

EvMark Executive Director Diane Williams said Monday no decision has been made yet on whether to seek a tax increase, but she notes that EvMark’s revenue from the tax program has been fixed at $250,000 per year since 1997.

The district was designed 20 years ago to focus on commercial areas downtown, but redevelopment since then has brought several new condominium buildings including Church Street Station, Optima Towers and Optima Horizons into the taxing district.

The owner of a condo with an equalized assessed value of $100,000 — which might translate to a market value around $500,000 — would have paid $148 in taxes toward EvMark’s programs this year.

The 24-member EvMark board is composed of downtown property owners plus several city officials.

Ms. Williams said she didn’t know whether the board meeting would be open to the public.

Whatever the EvMark board decides will be subject to approval by the City Council. It’s also subject to a petition process which would cancel the plan if a majority of both business owners and residents in the district signed petitions against it. If the taxing district isn’t renewed, it will expire next year.

Ms. Williams said it’s likely that the boundaries of the district will be changed. She said no decision has been made on whether residential properties now in the district will remain in it, or whether addditional residential properties may be added.

The existing boundaries are smaller than those the city uses for other downtown planning purposes. They exclude Research Park, most of the blocks from Oak Avenue to Ridge Avenue, much of the area south of Grove Street and portions of the area east of Chicago Avenue.

Ms. Williams said that many communities smaller than Evanston with downtowns that face far less complex issues use the special service area funding mechanism and have budgets for it substantially higher than Evanston’s.

She also said EvMark’s employees currently work only part time.

Related links
Downtown special service area map
EvMark web site

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