Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s Evanston City Council special meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 6:09 p.m.

Public Comment

Jack Mortell of the Firefighters’ Pension Board suggests using Personal Property Replacement Tax funds to increase public safety pension funding.

Several other speakers call for full public safety pension funding.

Special orders of business

SP1 – 2023 budget ordinance

Chief Financial Officer Hitesh Desai says proposed budget has been reduced from $402M to $390M. (That’s mainly by putting off capital improvement projects until future years.)

Pension funding

Says Council needs to decide how to fund any increase it wants to make in public safety pension funding.

Related story.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) wants to takes extra pension funds from sources other than the property tax.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) asks about PPRT revenue. Desai says inflation accounts for higher amounts this year. But says Illinois Municipal League is predicting a 30% reduction for next year.

Nieuwsma says the amount is completely controlled by Springfield.

Clayton Black, budget manager, says the state has imposed a new corporate income tax rate structure, has made the revenue very difficult to predict. Says the state also made some payments for 2021 in 2022.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) asks whether the goal is to pass a budget next week?

Biss says either that if close to agreement — or take some extra time and “do it right.”

Reid says he’d prefer to take the pension funding from general fund reserves, but says may need to take it from property tax increases in future years.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) asks what city typically spends on capital improvements each year.

City Engineer Lara Biggs says it ranges from $40M to $60M per year, with about $10M from general obligation bonds.

She says continuing delays in parks projects have increased spending on “reactive” projects — where things are already falling apart.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) asks whether city has a schedule to resolve those problems in the future.

Biggs says would need to play expensive catchup to get out from under that problem.

Biggs says city has hired consultant to create a parks master plan that would help resolve the scheduling issue.

Biss says chair of Finance and Budget Committee wrote to him today saying the city shouldn’t try to fund the entire pension increase from “surplus” funds — that needs to be at least partially from a property tax increase.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says he’s concerned about whether can both fund the pensions and shift $2M to reparations fund.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) asks how much would need to put in in future years to sustain the full pension funding.

Desai says “it’s a moving target.” Would need to fund more-or-less that same additional amount each year — give or take $1M — with variability largely dependent on stock market performance.

Wynne she’s concerned what it means over the next 17 years — wants projection for the future.

Says even best projections can sometimes be disastrously wrong.

Says leery of spending it all from surplus.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says shares some of Wynne’s concerns. Wants council to adopt a pension funding policy. Reluctant to dip too far into hoped for reserves — because don’t know the outcome of union contract negotiations.

Revelle says she’s not ready to vote on much of anything tonight.

Nieuwsma asks about reserve policy — says understands plan is to increase from 16.6% to 20% over a period of several years.

Desai says that’s the staff proposal — 18% for next year, 19% the following year and 20% the third year.

Nieuwsma says because of recession potential, union contracts and 100% pension funding he doesn’t think its wise to increase reserve policy for 2023.

Reid says he agrees with Nieuwsma on keeping reserve balance at 16.6% for now.

Biss says it appears there’s uncertainty about about year-end actual performance will be. Says there’s been years when council has pushed to increase revenue estimates — and city has ended up in a bad position when they fell short.

Desai says could set policy that if revenue was over x% of projection, that would be used for a particular purpose.

Biss says whatever council decides this year, it needs to have a policy about what the funding formula should be. Says there a number of assumptions in the state’s pension funding level — shouldn’t just say 100 is a better number than 90 and leave it there. Needs to sort that out by next spring to have a better plan in place for the 2024 budget.

Other budget issues

Reid says wants to increase gas tax by 1-cent per gallon. (instead of the 2-cent increase he had proposed last week). He concedes he misspoke last week when he said the current tax was 3-cents, but it’s actually 5-cents now (A 1-cent increase had been approved by the council last week.)

Kelly moves to table SP1 thru SP8 until Nov. 28.

Approved 8-0.

SP9 – Sanitation service charge changes

Approved 8-0 (for action).

SP10 – Water rate increase

Approved 8-0 (for action).

SP11 – Affordable sewer rate annual payment

Approved 8-0 (for action).

Call of the Ward

Harris … Ward meeting Nov. 29 @ ETHS.

Burns … Ward meeting Dec. 1 @ 7 p.m. online.

Revelle … Ryan Field special topic meeting Dec. 15, event day management.

Reid … Ward meeting Dec. 1 @ 6 p.m.

Geracaris … Ward meeting Dec. 7 @ 7 p.m. online.

Council votes at 7:54 p.m. to go into executive session to discuss litigation and personnel matters.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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