Evanston mayoral candidate Gary Gaspard called Thursday for a muncipal income tax on higher income residents.

Speaking at a candidate forum at Family Focus in the city’s 5th Ward, Gaspard framed the new tax as a way to pay for affordable housing programs.

Gaspard has also coupled the call for a new tax with a promise to freeze property taxes for two years.

The idea of a progressive municipal income tax has been floated in Chicago for several years, but has gone nowhere.

One problem is that the state constution bars any income tax other than a flat-rate tax that taxes people at the same percentage level regardless of income.

The other is that even a flat-rate local income tax would require the approval of the state legislature, which has shown little inclination to support the idea for Chicago.

A 2011 analysis by the Chicago Inspector General’s office noted that opponents fear a local income tax would drive businesses and residents out of the city, while proponents say it is more fair than other taxes it links the amount owed to the resources available to pay it.

Although they all voiced support for affordable housing programs, none of the other candidates for mayor joined Gaspard’s call for a local income tax during Thursday night’s forum.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


    1. Keeping Lifelong Evanstonians in Evanston – Spread the Pain
      Dear Mr. Utley, I think that you really jump too quick on the gun – Holla! We both are good friends on FB. We share most values. We communicate very well with each other sometimes, as we may agree and disagree on some issues. Maybe we should have a coffee to talk over the issues. Keeping lifelong Evanstonians in Evanston is one of my top priorities. My plan to explore a municipal income tax on high income level would be part of the solutions to the issue of property tax hike, which is considered to be one of the driving forces that push lifelong Evanstonians out of town, because some homeowners cannot afford it. As a result, we’re loosing good citizens from the City. I truly believe that most people who are making over $200,000 in Evanston would support that idea if we initiated it, because I have already spoken with many of them. Nonetheless, this is not a decision that I would be making out of hays. Studies would be conducted before making such a decision. Having said that, Sir, I would deeply appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss what we can do to keep good citizens/ifelong Evanstonians in Evanston.

      1. How much revenue?

        What tax rate are you thinking? How much revenue for City will this tax generate?  Will Social Security be Taxed?

      2. Let me guess…

        … you are making LESS than $200,000/year? So, again, this is all about other people’s money?

      3. Fiscal responsibility before “hitting the rich”

        “I truly believe that most people who are making over $200,000 in Evanston would support that idea if we initiated it, because I have already spoken with many of them.” Is that individuals over $200k or families over $200k? There’s a huge difference, and I honestly think you’ve got the wrong number if you think families over $200k are “rich.” I don’t know anybody in my boat who would welcome more taxes. The upper middle class is the dumping ground for everybody’s fiscal problems.

    2. Just blew candidacy x2

      2 life long Evanstonians here. We would move after 2 years. Wilmette is 2 minutes away.

  1. More than 1 way to skin a cat
    As pointed out, enacting a progressive municipal income tax is next to impossible. However, the property tax could be raised greatly and a rebate/refund offered based on household income. This combination, in effect, would be similar to a progressive income tax. It would also have the effect of dampening demand for expensive housing, while encouraging more affordable housing. The refund/rebate credit would be available for all residents, so that the effect on renters would be the same as on homeowners. For business owners, the local sales tax could be reduced to offset the increased property tax included in commercial rents, leaving retail prices the same as the surrounding area.

    Where’s there a will, there’s a way.

    1. Not a good deal

      For non-resident owners (both residential and business), this of course would screw them on both ends. Also, don’t forget that the city’s share of the local sales tax is a whopping 1% — eliminating that for business in exchange for a “greatly raised” property tax is like giving them a free pass to use the sidewalks. So you have a bunch of expensive homes on the market for the long term as owners flee for more affordable locales, you won’t be able to attract buyers for those homes, you won’t be able to attract outside investors for new businesses, and you lose what sales-tax revenue you would have otherwise collected. Needless to say, your tax base — none too big as it is — shrinks fast enough you can feel the breeze. Oh, and for apartment buildings owned by non-Evanston entities, rents skyrocket as the owners try to recoup their increased property-tax expense from the only revenue stream available to them. This is a deal?

  2. But tax bill would continue to rise

    The city’s portion of my property tax is nothing in contrast to the school districts, county and the completely out of control library taxes! So freezing the city portion wouldn’t mean that a property tax bill would stay at the same level, it would in fact continue to rise with out of control spending.

    1. Fighting to Keep Property Tax Low: Keeping Lifelong Evanstonians

      Property Tax hike is one of the driving forces that keep pushing lifelong Evanstionians out of town.  Evanston residents have long faced the issue of a burdensome property tax. Mayor Morton saw it. Mayor Tisdahl saw it. And I see it too. But I am here to fix it.

      After winning her election in 1993, Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Morton said the next mayor and City Council must find new ways to reduce the tax burden. Since taking office in 2009, Mayor Tisdahl has worked so hard to reduce the tax burden for Evanston residents. I applaud her for her efforts, but we have more work to do.

      Today, here we are 24 years later after Mayor Morton made the call to reduce the tax burden, Evanston residents are still feeling the pain. Why is that?

      In May 2016, in the article of “Suburban homeowners balk at big jump in assessments,” Crain’s Chicago Business reports, “…among four north Cook County townships that have been reassessed… New Trier and Evanston had the biggest increases, with the median single-family home’s assessed value rising 25 percent from 2013…”

      The real increase comes from the police and fire pension levy. For the past ten years, it has raised by 104.58% ($8.043,877 to $16,455,923). We all know that property tax revenue is necessary for keeping the basic function of the government running, such as infrastructure, public safety, and health. We have a good professional law enforcement and fire department; the streets are in good shape, not very many potholes, and there is a firehouse located no more than three minutes from every resident.

      So, work has been done. But we have to do something to make Evanston affordable – reducing the burden on the taxpayers.  In an effort to do so, here’s three things I want to do as mayor: 

      Freeze the tax levy for two years,
      Reduce spending, and
      Explore the possibility of local income tax on high income level.

      1. State Constitution

        Hi Gary,

        We all know that pension and health liabilities are overwhelmingly the main driver of the states (and cities) financial woes. We also know that the supermajority in in the Illinois legislature won’t amend the state constitution to be able to reduce pension liabilities.  This leads to only one destination…a Detroit style financial crisis.  Raising taxes anywhere isn’t going to do a darn thing.

      2. Views on public education in Evanston?
        Gary, I’m very interested to hear your views on public education in Evanston and the proposed District 65 referendum?
        Many people are aware that about 2/3rd of our property taxes go to both D65 and D202.

        Thank you


  3. Residents would leave in droves

    Instead of finding ways to tax the people even more, how about these politicians find a way to balance a budget with the enormous revenues the cities, states, and federal governments have coming in. If Evanston institutes a city income tax, residents will leave in droves to surrounding suburbs.

    1. This topic is a Red Herring

       Mr. Gaspard was elected to be Township Supervisor in 2013 and resigned after 5 months siting job was “more time than I anticipated.” The budget he produced was considered ” embarrassing” to city council members. This is an angle to garner support that will receive zero reward for Evanston and especially the 5th Ward.He is blowing bubbles in the political air.

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