The City of Evanston and the community’s two school districts have racked up debt totalling nearly $12,000 for every person in town.

That’s one conclusion of a new report this week from the county treasurer’s office.

The report shows that the debt burden increased by 2.65 percent between 2010 and 2011.

By far the largest portion of the debt — $886.7 million — is held by the City of Evanston, but the city showed the smallest debt increase, 1.7 percent, between the two years.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s debt totalled $84.5 million and increased by 5.6 percent.

Evanston Township High School District 202’s debt totalled $82.5 million and increased by 8.1 percent.

More than half the city’s debt, $388 million, is a result of pension liabilities. But the city managed to trim the unfunded portion of that debt by more than 1 percent last year.

Much of the rest of the debt has dedicated revenue streams — for example from water and sewer payments and parking fees — to help pay it off.

The report also shows that the city raised its property tax levy by 42.7 percent over the past decade. District 65’s levy rose by 41.4 percent and District 202’s increased by 37.9 percent.

And it shows that the average worker for District 65 and the city got a 5 percent pay increase last year, while the average District 202 employee received a 4 percent increase.

You can check the debt numbers for all local taxing districts affecting your property tax bill here.

Related story

Cook taxpayers on the hook for $140 billion in debt. (Chicago Business)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Who else gets raises like this?

    Few in the private sector have seen those kinds of raises in years.

    Maybe the next protest movement won't be 'Protest Wall Street' but 'Protest Schools and Govenment.'

    1. You enquired : Who else gets raises like these?

       See : Wall Street Bonuses May Surge 20% This Year, Consultant Says for an answer.

      Of course, you are right that 'few' in the private sector get huge raises….it seems to be limited to the criminals in management. 

      Maybe the public sector should emulate the private sector, and give huge raises to the school superintendents, the congressman,  the mayors, and the senators…….and cut wages for the cops, teachers, and social workers.

  2. Evanston’s Debt Burden much worst!

    Using the statistic of population is one measure, to show $12,000 per person, but if you subtract out those who are students and renters, the picture is much worst.  Those of us who own the homes or rental property are much worst off.    Once the City declare's bankruptcy,  a renter can leave, within a year, those with property will be stuck.

    The burden is closer to $24,000.

    Looking at this another way the income to debt ration is almost 11.  Do banks lend any one money with such a ratio – 3 use to be typical. 

    The city is way over spent. 

    That is why the are looking for every source of revenue, such as raising parking meters, to trying to fine and collect from people for the most minor issues.

    Ofcourse Bankruptcy, might not be all that bad the council members, mayor and Wally would all go, and a reciever take over, who would make some real spending cuts.

  3. Unions & pols in bed together give us high debt and taxes

    Cook County taxpayers are $140 BILLION in debt!

    Each Evanstonian owes $12,000 in local taxes because the City of Evanston and its two school districts have wracked up tremendous debt even as these local government entities consistently raised taxes during a prolonged and severe recession.

    And to think D65 administrators and Democrat politicians wanted voters to approve another $50 million in debt for a new school in an area with declining population and lukewarm support.

    Meanwhile, Evanston and D65 keeps on giving public unions members pay raises. Not one Evanston firefighter has been laid off in this recession – even though Evanston tried to layoff three firefighters but rehired them back after the Evanston Fire Union sued the city for unfair labor practices.

    Hey, how about I sue the city and school districts for unfair tax hikes and insurmountable debt? 

    Did you pay your property taxes and state income taxes? We have paid the price in tax hikes and fee and fine increases for years now. But government union employees not only enjoy relative job security but they get annual pay raises and other benefits thanks to our local aldermen and school board members.


  4. Diistricts 65 and 202 pay raises

    Why the 4 and 5% pay increases during these difficult economic times?  Evanston school students under-perform compared to neighboring northshore districts.  Moreover,  these higher achieving districts have more balanced budgets, significantly less debt and, their certified staff only received  a 2-3% pay increase and, their average pay is lower than that of Evanston teachers. This practice seems a bit suspicious…  Why do Evanston residents allow this to happen?

    1. Where are you getting your information?

      In an apples to apples comparison, d65 is outperforming any north shore school.  Wilmette had an operating referendum last year to keep the status quo – half day kindergarten and larger class sizes than ours.  The grass isn't always greener …

    2. Apples to Apples, please

      Re: "Evanston school students under-perform compared to neighboring northshore districts."

      You need to compare apples with apples when making this kind of claim. Most northshore districts are largely (if not entirely) comprised of White students. Use the comparison tools on the Illinois Report Card site ( and you'll see that there are higher percentages of White and Non-Low Income students in the meets/exceeds categories in D65 than in any other district with appreciable numbers of students that is north of us.


      1. socioeconomic differences, not color

        Most other northshore districts are full of wealthy kids, whose parents went to 4 year college plus.  This is the most important educational difference between Evanston and other northern shore burbs- we have lots of educational diversity amongst our adult population.     How many parents in Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Winnetka, etc. didn't attend college?

        As a community, we need to continue keeping this in mind- it's not about the color of your skin, it's about the education of your parents.   Not one study ever has found that kids do more poorly solely because of their skin color.  Many many many studies have proven that the level of kids' success is related to the highest degree of education reached by the mother.    Education level is also highly correlated to current socioeconomic status, for obvious reasons.

        Using this as a perspective, you are right that Evanston, as a whole,  outperforms all other burbs with simliar socioeconomic diversity.  

            The claim below that Evanston is better off than wilmette because they had an operating budget and we did not-  Evanston also  needs an operating budget to keep the status quo.   Instead of pushing for this referendum,  our board tried to get a new school instead, without thinking of how they'd even pay the teachers there.      Now art teachers, special ed teachers and aides are all getting riffed.  I'd hardly say that our grass is greener. 


    3. Pay raise rate for school staff

      I agree with "anonymous" who questions the Evanston school staff pay raises at 4 to 5%.  This person makes a great point — yes, Evanston needs to look at the surrounding communities and start asking some questions.  You can look outside IL too.  Our teachers here in MA do not get raises beyond 2% and often the union must fight long battles even to get that passed.  This, even though the communities are not in debt.   The fact is that lower raises do not affect the quality of education.  Proof of that?  Massachusetts consistently ranks as one of the best states for public school education in the nation.

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