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Evanston tax hikes up for discussion

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Evanston city staff will suggest a range of possible tax and fee hikes to aldermen tonight — including boosting the sales tax and the real estate transfer tax.

In a memo to aldermen, staff suggests that a quarter-percent increase in the city’s home-rule sales tax would bring in $1.5 million in new revenue.

Of 33 nearby communities checked, 21 charge the same 10 percent total sales tax that Evanston does. Five charge a quarter percentage point less. Four — including Chicago, Skokie, Niles and Morton Grove — charge 10.25 percent and the other four charge rates between 10.5 and 11 percent.

An increase in the real estate transfer tax to $7 per thousand from the current $5 per thousand rate is projected to raise $1.4 million in new revenue.

But that increase would require voter approval at a referendum. The last RETT hike proposal went down to defeat in 2006 on a 52-48 vote.

Several nearby communities have no real estate transfer tax. Most others charge less than Evanston. The exceptions are Oak Park at $8 and Chicago at $10.50.

Other possibilities the memo mentions include:

  • Increasing the wheel tax on vehicles registered here from $75 to $95 to raise $500,000.
  • Doubling the tax on Uber and other transportation network providers from 20-cents to 40-cents per ride to raise $300,000.
  • Eliminating the first hour free program at city garages to raise $195,000.
  • Creating a new 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages, which might raise $175,000.
  • Raising the hotel tax by 0.5 percent to raise $115,000

And other ideas for which the staff hasn’t developed revenue estimates include several that would hit drivers:

  • Installing parking meters along the lakefront.
  • Increasing hourly parking garage fees and monthly fees at garages and surface lots.
  • Eliminating free Sunday parking at meters and garages.
  • Exploring the sale of the Maple Avenue parking garage.

And they’re also floating ideas to increase boat rack and launch fees and increasing the athletic event tax.

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