Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday evening’s meeting of the Evanston City Council. At the top of the meeting Council members postponed final votes on the redevelopment of Ryan Field for a week. They later voted to introduce the 2024 city budget.
The meeting is now scheduled to begin about 5:10 p.m.
A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.
Meeting called to order at 5:24 p.m.
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) moves to table SP3, SP4, SP5 for one week, to Nov. 20, for a special council meeting that night. Those are the major Ryan Field measures. Nieuwsma says that will give time to digest the changes proposed by the university over the weekend.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says she feels disenfranchised by the process — need have someone designated to bring back a stronger agreement for the city.
Mayor Daniel Biss says legal staff is funneling all concerns from council members into the discussions with the university.
Kelly says the current proposal is “a very weak agreement.”
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) disagrees, says its a “very strong agreement.” Got extension from 10 to 15 years, got a cost of living increase, “did a lot of heavy lifting,” he says.
Says it would be a mistake to table it, putting the deal at risk.
Nieuwsma says he’s not interested in continuing to negotiate. Says have a very good deal in front of us now. Says it’s an awesome deal now. Says it exceeds the agreement made by Brown University. Says wants the pause to make sure the paperwork is caught up with where the understanding is. Says he’s looking forward to approving it in a week.
Motion to table approved 6-2. Harris and Reid vote no.
Mayor’s public announcements
Biss reads a proclamation for Restorative Justice Week.
Free two-hour holiday parking starts Nov. 22 and runs through Jan. 2. (Expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars in lost city revenue. Reid objects to that. Kelly says it will increase sales tax revenue. Reid says research shows giving away free parking doesn’t increase sales tax revenue.)
Mayor says each speaker will have 45 seconds.
Public comment ends at 6:31 p.m.
PH1 – Howard Street proposed special service area #10
City staff says the initial SSA tax levy would raise about $95K. That would increase to about $243K starting in 2028 after the current tax increment financing district expires.
One property owner objects to the proposal. Council won’t be actually voting on the proposal until January.
Special orders of business
SP1 – Increasing tax rate for certain amusement events
Nieuwsma moves amendment to clarify that its 7% tax on 1,500 to 5,000 venue and a 9% on larger venues. (Says was confusion in the original language that might mean a 16% tax rate on the larger venues.)
Amendment approved 8-0.
Amended ordinance approved 8-0.
SP2 – Increasing liquor tax for certain amusement and athletic events
SP6 – Update on 2024 capital improvement program
This item is for discussion.
Bottom line is reduction of initial proposal for $33.4 million to $18.7 million.
Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) thanks staff for making those cuts. Says he’s happy with the proposed cuts.
Chief Engineer Lara Biggs says Chicago Avenue and Green Bay Road projects are likely to not get started on construction in 2025.
Biggs says the plan postposes consulting contract for Police Fire Headquarters and Civic Center and one of two projects at the Service Center.
Nieuwsma says can’t put off everything forever — and later it will cost more. Says city has capital needs that far exceed the city’s ability to pay for them.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says city typically spends $10M a year on capital improvements — and even with these reductions city will be spending $18M next year.
SP7 – Budget ordinance
Reid moves to table (but apparently fails to get a second).
Revelle moves introduction. Reid seconds.
CFO Hitesh Desai makes presentation.
Proposes increasing the anticipated staff vacancy rate from 2% to 4% (saving $1.8M).
That could reduce the property tax levy by the same amount.
Kelly calls for removing the new city council administrator position budgeted at $120K
City Manager Luke Stowe says this position would replace the WorksBee contract of $67K.
Kelly then suggests cutting both of those.
Biss says he’s comfortable making both those changes, but thinks should have a vote on the issue.
Kelly moves that. (No second initially, but discussion starts.)
Reid says he needs an assistant. Says he gets paid about $2 an hour for his work on the Council.
Nieuwsma agrees with Reid. Suffredin agrees with Kelly. Geracaris says he wants no property tax increase but he makes good use of the WorksBee (so he’s in the middle).
Burns says the WorksBee contract gave much needed support for those who need it. Favors the in-house solution for next year. Says there are a bunch of other ways to cut costs.
Revelle says she’s too hands on to use an assistant, but hears colleagues who say they need it. Says she’ll reluctantly continue to support this service.
Reid makes substitute motion to just reducing the overlap between WorksBee and the staff position — saving about $70K.
That’s approved 8-0. Suffredin votes no.
Nieuwsma says if really want to reduce property tax need to reduce total number of positions — just increasing the anticipated vacancy rate isn’t the way to go.
Says he’s comfortable with the number of positions in the staff’s proposed budget.
Suffredin asks what’s the end goal — eliminating the property tax increase? Doesn’t want to do this $70K at a time.
Says he’d like to get the tax increase to zero — but need to look at whether its a responsible way to govern.
Says if people are overworked constantly are likely to lose employees.
Reid moves to create special order of business for the Nov. 27 meeting to raise the motor fuel tax from 5% to 8%. Fails for lack of a second.
Reid moves to create a fire assessment services for non-property tax paying entities that use service more than 200 times a year. Kelly seconds. Reid says other cities have similar fees.
Fire Chief Paul Polep asks to do more research, says some other things play into the issue. What’s the cost, what would charge?
Suffredin says its premature to put a special order of business on the agenda without understanding the viability of it.
Nieuwsma asks how many more idea Reid has. Reid says he has 10 ideas. Nieuwsma says might support some and would like informed input by staff to guide the discussion.
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) thanks Reid for the ideas — but suggests putting them in a memo so wouldn’t have to think about all of them on the fly.
Geracaris says he agrees with Wynne. Suggests having them in the form of budget memos. Says he’s interested in the food delivery tax idea.
Kelly withdraws her second.
Biss asks Reid to send his proposals in writing to the rest of the Council members.
Reid moves to have a discussion item Nov. 27 regarding fire assessment fees. Revelle seconds.
Approved 6-2. Harris and Nieuwsma vote no.
Reid also suggests …
- Amendment to bag tax ordinance … to have the city keep all of the revenue, not give half of it to the merchants.
- Tax on third-party delivery services.
- Delivery fleet tax on Amazon, etc.
- $5 increase to wheel tax.
- Occupational privilege tax (on businesses that hire people who are not city residents.
- Increase long term care facility and restaurant licenses .. inflationary adjustments.
- $10 per space surcharge on parking for events with over 5K people.
- Increase residential parking permits from $30 to $60, raising $1M in new revenue.
- One cent increase in the motor fuel tax.
Moves that 2, 3, 6, 8, 9 be on next regular meeting agenda for discussion.
Approved 7-2. No votes from Kelly and (I think) Suffredin.
Biss says need further discussion needed on vacancy rate.
Stowe says also need direction on positions.
General consensus is that position count is OK. Most say 4% vacancy rate is about right, but Nieuwsma and Reid and Geracaris prefer 3.5% vacancy rate.
Reid moves to amend the budget consistent with the CIP changes that were in the packet. (That reduces the total budget by $15M from $449M to $434M.)
Amendment approved 9-0. Budget ordinance approved for introduction 9-0.
Up for final action on Nov. 27.
SP8, SP9 – Tax levy and GA tax levy
Reid moves to table until Nov. 27 meeting. Fails for lack of a second.
SP8-SP14 – All the tax levies
Approved for introduction 5-4. Kelly, Burns, Reid and Geracaris vote no.
It’s now 9:08 p.m.
Off consent: A7, A8, A11, HS1
A7 -Fire alarms fees & A8 – IEPA loan
Vote to suspend the rules for immediate adoption is approved.
A11 – Ambulance fee increase from $1.5K to $2K
Approved 8-0. (Kelly absent for this vote.)
HS1 – Minimum Wage increase
Reid moves introduction, but defer to Dec. 11 for action. Doesn’t get a second.
Nieuwsma moves to table until Dec. 11. Wynne seconds.
Motion to table approved 6-2. Burns and Reid vote no.
Call of the wards
Reid. .. ward meeting last Thursday of the month.
Meeting adjourned at 9:38 p.m.