Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) called Monday night for eliminating the 13% spending increase in Evanston’s proposed 2024 budget, but offered few details about how to do it.

Questioned by Ald. Devon Reid (8th) about how she would cut what he called $43 million in spending — the actual reduction needed would be $52 million — Kelly suggested:

  • Dropping a $1.5 million consulting contract regarding the future of the Civic Center.
  • Eliminating the 15 new hires in the budget (which would save perhaps $2 million).
  • Increasing the assumption about the percentage of budgeted city jobs that would remain unfilled during the year (which might save another $2 million).

She has previously called for delaying state-mandated work to replace lead water service lines in the city.

Kelly was among council members who voted earlier this year to give city workers retroactive pay hikes ranging from 11% for AFSCME union members to 18% for police officers.

She also has led a push on the council to increase public safety pension payments.

None of the other council members indicated any desire at Monday’s “truth in taxation” hearing to back Kelly’s call for sizable budget reductions.

Devon Reid.

Reid floated ideas for a range of new and increased taxes and fees that he said would make it possible to reduce the proposed 7.9% increase in the property tax levy for next year.

His proposed new charges include:

  • A “vacant property fee” he said could raise perhaps $100,000 and create an incentive for owners to rent out commercial and residential properties.
  • A 1% tax on food delivery services that he claimed would encourage people to go out to pickup their own food.
  • A tax on delivery fleets — like Amazon and Fedex — that “use our infrastructure.”
  • Charging for parking at city recreation centers (an idea the council has previously rejected) that he claimed could raise $250,000.
  • A “storm water drainage fee” to be imposed on parking lots.
  • A “fire assessment fee” that would be imposed on owners of large buildings, including the university, that he said could raise $300,000.
  • Creating “occupational privilege tax,” a head tax on companies that have workers who don’t live in Evanston.

And his proposed increased fees and taxes would include:

  • Higher rental property inspection fees for buildings that needed to be inspected more often.
  • A shift in the bag tax so the city would collect all of the tax, rather than letting merchants keep half to defray the cost of running the program.
  • Raising the wheel tax to match the tops-in-the region charge in the City of Chicago.
  • Doubling the resident parking permit fee from $30 to $60 and imposing it citywide — not just in areas with restricted parking zones.
  • A $10 per space “event parking surcharge” for events with over 5,000 attendees, which he claimed could bring in over $1 million a year.
  • An increase in the license fees for long term care facilities.

None of the other council members voiced support for Reid’s proposals — which he said he would propose for introduction at next Monday’s council meeting.

The council is scheduled to adopt the proposed budget at its Nov. 27 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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