Evanston’s City Manager this evening unveiled a proposed 2012 city budget in which he calls for a nearly 8 percent increase in property taxes.

That compares to a property tax increase of just over 3 percent in the current year’s budget.

Beyond the property tax hike, Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s budget calls for extracting another $2.2 million in new revenue from city residents by raising parking fines, increasing recreation program fees and increasing the library tax, among other measures.

The spending plan calls for cutting the city’s workforce of nearly 800 employees by a little over 1 percent, with the biggest reduction the loss of five forestry workers whose jobs would be contracted out.

That would be the smallest staffing reduction in several years. The size of the city’s workforce peaked at 884 workers in 2006-7.

The budget assumes that city workers will receive a 2 percent cost of living increase in contracts being negotiated this fall.

The proposed property tax hike would have been even larger, but for a change adopted by the state legislature this year that reduced pension benefits for newly hired police and fire employees.

Those changes cut a projected tax increase for those programs from roughly $2 million to less than $1 million.

Overall spending of $218 million in the proposed budget is up 11 percent from the city’s last 12-month spending plan adopted nearly two years ago. The city is operating on a 10 month budget this year as it transitions to make its fiscal year match the calendar year.

Top: Demands from union workers, as seen on this yard sign, that the city not farm out jobs to private contractors, appear to have been largely — if not completely — met in the manager’s proposed budget.

Related document

Proposed Evanston budget for 2012

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Sell out

    Yet again Evanston sells out to the unions. It's obvious that they are the elite and their interests come before us lowly taxpayers.

    Another thing…you union members have a lot of nerve putting your signs on my property without asking my permission. You put them on a lot of properties in my neighborhood without permission. We're not talking about the city owned park ways either. Private property. As far as I know that's illegal. Classy move.

  2. Micro of the macro?

    Perhaps it's time for an "Occupy Evanston" movement to show that homeowners won't stand for higher property taxes….

  3. High ball

    It's called asking for an outrageous 8% so the a still high 3% seems like a good deal.

  4. Budget chaos – What is the real tax increase?

    Wally does not come out any where and tell the taxpayers what is the total tax increase he wants, You have to go through the budget and  look at many items. Why is this the case?

    I look at this in two ways one staff is incompetent and does not know how to give us logical information or staff wants to cover up the real tax increase.  Take your pick.

    My initial look of the budget, came up with a tax increase approaching 5.7 %, but there is so much confusion in the numbers,I do not know for certain – 8% could be the number also?  Anyone else, take a look at the numbers, maybe Wally can comment here on Evanstonnow and give us a number?

    Also given they raise other fees and play games with transfers what is the real  increase, your water bill is used to lower the property tax rate    Taxpayers need to understand the city transfers out 3 million from the water fund and puts it back into the general fund which translates into a 7.5% property tax increase.

    One wonders if staff is confused or there is a intention desire to mislead everyone?  For the last several years they keep on saying we have not raised the property tax on the general fund, to the average taxpayer they think they have not raised the property tax at all.  That is not the case then they say we have raised the property  tax 3% to cover pensions.

    The council and Mayor clearly are not too interested in knowing the real number, since that would make them look bad, so they are happy with the status quo of the staff misleading the public.

  5. What city does Wally work for ?

    Obviously not Evanston.  The Council keeps increasing taxes, pushing out businesses, discouraging new business and punishing residents.  Is this a secret plot to get everyone to move to Skokie or Wilmette ?

    The Council should start a house cleaning of departments.  Hopefully the residents will then house clean the elected officials and get some government with their heads out of the sand who want Evanston to grow instead of  trying to create another 60s type utopian strung out community. 

    I thought Wally had some good ideas when he came in but he and/or the Council backed out of them.  The 311 waste showed very poor judgment and the proposed taxes [as if the current taxes did not] show the government is still in LaLa land.

  6. Stop this nonsense
    How tone deaf can our city officials be? Yes, it is indeed time for Occupy Wall Street to come to Evanston.

  7. Stop this nonsense
    How tone deaf can our city officials be? Yes, it is indeed time for Occupy Wall Street to come to Evanston.

    1. Top 100 Plus

      101 Cut City Council in half—will still be more Council members per resident than in Chicago

      102 Abolish office of the Mayor—-long overdue and useless

      103 No spending on artsy project and start defunding existing

      104 No tax increase without referendum

      105 Cut City hall staffing by 50% including departments—then move to smaller building

      106 No Council 'gifts' or bribes to new or existing businesses

      107 Abolish arts councils

      108 Stop increases in pension benefits until city budget can afford what already promised

      109 Find a way to shift defined benefits to defined contribution and shift existing pensions to 401k—-companies have been doing this for years

      110 Council and mayor [until eliminated] become unpaid positions

      111 Replace schools with Charter schools

      112 Require all 6-12 grade teachers to pass an exam [created by independent agency] at Masters level in their field [e.g. university math, not teachers math]

      113 Abandon all discussions, studies, etc. of lake front hotels, dinners, theaters

      114 Art and Cultural events must be self funded—no public money


      Maybe after 10 years so can start building back what we had but not until we get back to reality and stop raising taxes


  8. Very unhappy with the budget proposal

    What was the purpose of all those lengthy surveys about the budget?  Everyone that I've spoken to has talked about how our city employs way too much staff.  I just spent the last hour going over the proposed budget and the fact that we only have a 1% staff reduction which is the lowest in years is very disappointing.

    I understand that the economy needs to keep people in jobs but giving them raises when the rest of us are struggling to stay afloat is simply ridiculous.

    Evanston property tax should be NOT be raised 8% while Northwestern University is busy putting up new buildings tax-free.  What about the wind farming?  What happened to all those ideas to help build revenue for the City of Evanston?  There has been so many businesses that have started up and left because the rental cost is just not affordable.

  9. When democrats squeal about tax increases

    Chicagoans and Evanstonians are such a hoot–they consistently elect big-government democrats and then squeal when they get whacked by tax increases to pay the legions of bureaucrats. I'm not talking about some of the sensible commenters here, just Chicagoans and Evanstonians in general.

  10. This is simply outrageous

    At this time, when many people have lost their job, when others have had hours reduced, still others have had their pay cut, etc.. and many families are still hanging on by a thread, Wally proposed raising the City portion of the property tax.  I am stunned.  I think the Council should start cutting expenses by cutting out of a job.  He is clearly out of touch with reality.

  11. Property taxes increasing

    My downtown Evanston condo just got appraised as 20% less it's purchase value from only 3 years ago and the taxes are being increased ridiculous amounts.  It almost seems like they're just making up numbers.  Meanwhile, the Northwestern University empire has never been healthier.  And what's really worse is that these high taxes must be a death nail to any business trying to make it in Evanston.  How can they possibly pay these rents with such a high tax base?  

  12. Eliminate the Mayor and Council Medical Benefits

    It is time to make the council and Mayor pay the complete amount of their medical benefits.  When the employees will  be asked to pay more.

    The Mayor and Council members are part time employees of the city , NO part time employees get medical benefits  Does it make sense when someone makes a salary of $12,000 a year they can get Medical benefits valued at $17,000 for family coverage.  They use to be paying $35 a month for this sweet deal, but when the previous City Manager left, she changed the amount they pay to the same amount as an full employee about $180 a month. 

    Interesting when I spoke at city comment prior to them discussing compensation for the next council, talking about eliminating this sweet deal , not one of them would discuss it!

    I am feed up with public officials in Evanston and else where creating special benefits for themselves and their friends and family members.  You get a ticket for talking our your cell phone while driving but they do not!  When one public official recent brought her dog into a public building the city employee standing next to her did not ask her to leave but made an excuse for her.

    While we can not at this time eliminate the benefit for the Mayor and council members that can only be done for the next council. We can change the cost, just like the employees will most likely pay more.  Its time for Wally to stop servicing his masters and service us.  He can raise the council members and Mayors cost to full cost.

    I propose they be require to pay full cost up to their current salaries, that is if they choose single coverage they will be the full $7,000 a year for it, If they chose family coverage they pay $12,000 and the city will pick by the $5,000 at this time.

    That change will take 1/4% off our property tax increase.  As one council member recently told me they consider this a volunteer job, I did not think volunteer were entitled to full medical benefits?

    Wally its time to service us taxpayers not your masters!



    1. Council benefits package

      This is a perk which clearly needs to be eliminated or at least adjusted. The Council, et al, do serve long hours and try mightily on behalf of the city,  but for a part time position, this is obscene. As well, any increase in pay throughout the city should be held to 0% when revenues are falling.

      It just has to stop.

  13. Why do unions want you to pay 8 percent more in taxes?

    Here is yet another example of how the public unions have a stranglehold on Evanston's political process and taxation.

    This Democrat and union-led petition wants Evanstonians to suck up and oppose privatizing services, and fork over 8 percent more of their property taxes all so the city public unions can keep their jobs and pay raises.

    Got that?  

    Flo Estes, a staff representative for ASCME Council 31, is leading this petition drive. She will tell you that towns that privatized services are paying more. That is FALSE!

    Just about every Chicago suburb now has privatized waste services and Chicago is even considering it. The few that don't are Glencoe, Wilmette and Skokie. So let's look at those.

    If you think Evanston gets quality public waste service then consider that Skokie picks up trash TWICE A WEEK!!!! Glencoe delivers back-door service TWICE A WEEK!!!!! And here in Evanston, we pay a premium tax rate and our trash is picked up only ONCE a week. 🙁

    What flip flop Flo won't tell you is that the vast majority of suburbs that use privatized waste service are happy with it, and the expenditures for those cities are down. Consider that Waste Management Co. pays the salaries of its own mechanics and drivers, maintains its fleet of trucks and all of those trucks are manned by one person. Evanston has at least two people on their trucks, pays the salaries and annual pay raises of their unionized sanitation employees but most of all pays their UNION PENSIONS that seem to be driving this city straight unto bankruptcy!!!!!

    Also consider that Wally B. is estimating that these union employees will get at least a 2 percent pay raise this year. I predict it will be more based on how the City Council settled a nice pay raise for the Police Sergeant's Union.  

    Did you get your property tax bill in the mail yet? How are your property values holding up? Unless you are a public union employee, you're probably not a happy camper. How would you feel if Wally B. and the Democrat City Council get their way and raised city taxes EIGHT percent? 

    I hope the voting public understands how the public unions continue to influence our political leaders. I mean Wally B. is suggesting an EIGHT percent tax hike and only a paltry 1 percent cut in the city workforce – the vast majority from the Forestry Dept.

    Perhaps an "Occupy Evanston City Chambers" is necessary. Get involved, organize, tell your neighbors and friends to VOTE out all the union-friendly incumbents!!!!!  

    Oppression can only survive through silence.

    1. Higher taxes

      So all the social service programs that Evanston offers have nothing to do with the taxes?? Duplicating services that the county and state offer plays no part?? Triple digit administrator salaries have nothing to do with it?? 

      Glad the unions are available for you to use as scapegoats … Without them you might have to actually look at the facts instead of the hype you have been sold about unions ….

    2. pesky facts… (again)

      …those AFSCME union members striving valiantly to keep jobs in Evanston get their pensions from the IMRF, which is appropriately funded, and therefore not responsible for the property tax increases over the past several years.  Those tax hikes are due to mismanagement on the city's part for not meeting its public safety pension obligations, even in the face of 20+ years of warnings and lawsuits to bring the "pension tsunami" under control ahead of time. 

      The city council(s) chose to reap the benefits of short-term gain over long-term pain, and now the piper must be paid…

      Pensions and unions are not the problem.  Properly funded defined benefit retirement systems WORK, but the investments (i.e. appropriate contributions made on-time and over time) need to be there.  If your entire retirement package relies on the magic of compound interest over the long term, then ZERO contributions equals ZERO interest, and the shortfall grows.

      Unions WORK.  They are the reason you have a 40-hour work week and mandatory overtime, and weekends and holidays off.  They are the reason your workplace is safe, and you are protected when you are injured on the job.  Unions, sadly, are now the exception, not the rule.  Instead of joining the headlong race to the bottom, why not work to ensure that ALL workers have the opportunity to earn secure pensions (instead of relying on risky 401K's that can wipe out your retirement nest egg without a moment's notice.)

      Are there flaws?  Of course.  But you can't paint an entire movement with the same broad brush.  Work towards improving the system, and make it inclusive to benefit everyone, instead of trying to pitch out the baby with the bathwater.


      1. Twisted facts….(again)

        There are several reasons that Evanston's pension funds, and thousands of other municipal pension funds across the country, and Illinois' pension fund, and hundreds of other state run funds, and our federal government is running a larger and larger entitlement deficit – it's the political power of the organized unions. There are several, but not surprising omissions of fact. First, unions in Illinois aggressively lobby our legislators, and the legislators have passed very generous laws that significantly enhance pension benefits. And why wouldn't they pass these laws? The legislators curry favor with the unions and hence get money and votes. And the pension liability isn't funded from Springfield, it's burden is placed upon the local municipality. And this pension liability isn't realized for decades into the future, so the legislator is long gone when the bill comes due. How convenient.

        Second, "Pesky facts..(again)" also fails to mention how often union leaders and other officials have manipulated the public pension system. Just in Illinois over the last 2-3 years there have been many, many stories of "pension spiking" , people being "rehired for a day". Read about the issues in Highland Park's Park District. Read the September 21, 2011 Chicago Tribune article about 23 union labor leaders who will collect $56 MILLION. The list goes on, and on, ad nauseum.

        Yes, it's true in Evanston that City Council did not fully fund their pension contributions. But that's not a surprise-politicians will always take the easy way out. They don't want to "upset" anyone. And again, when the piper comes dues, they are long gone. Look at the current composition today on City Council. It's the newly elected officials who are left to clean up after their predecessors. Look in Springfield at the recently elected Senators and Representatives. But where are their predecessors? The "pension system" as structured is/was doomed to fail. Benefits too generous (retire at age 50), inflexible legal constraints(can't update the system when conditions change) and funding left to politicians who are highly influenced by the union beneficiaries.

        Surprise, Surprise, Surprise we're in this situation.


        1. Re; Twisted facts again

          Are there abuses of the pension system? HELL YES …. Does there need to be regulations to stop these abuses? HELL YES … BUT the vast majority of people receiving a pension have not abused the system. They have paid their contributions, worked their jobs faithfully, and deserve the pensions they were promised. 

  14. The City Manager wants to

    The City Manager wants to shift 2 million dollars from the operating to the capital budget. That adds to an existing 2.4 million dollar deficit, essentially doubling the amount needed to garner from Evanston taxpayers. This is inappropriate. In addition, District 65 proposes to build a school facility that is reportedly not needed, and to work-around a public referendum by using a loophole to get appropriation, further increasing the future tax burden on all citizen taxpayers.

    I am retired, on a fixed retirement income, and can no longer afford to live in this lovely town. How many others are in this situation? I recently tried to sell my home, but was unsuccessful. The higher the tax burden, the more difficult that will become. Who will afford to buy into this community and how will that financial selection change the face of Evanston? What is the point of visioning exercises which make us feel good when the economic realities that drive our future are decided beyond our control?

  15. Unstainable tax increase!

    What is interesting is the city is projected almost double the current budget problem in 2013, so the question is if they need 8% this year what will they need next year 15% to keep the city afloat?   Over a 20% increase in two years?

    None of this is too likely, Privately staff is admitting there will need to be bigger lay offs, Police and fire will be reduced, although this will not be admitted to the public.

    There are still some things that can be reduced here with little impact, but Wally isn't going to go after them, unless certain council members and the Mayor offer them up, since they are being protected by the council members and the Mayor.

    1. Ponzi, Ponzi!

      Please watch the spelling, especially in the titles: the word is "Unsustainable" (unless you REALLY meant "Unstainable"!)

      1. Cartooning versus spelling

         Cartooning is more fun than spelling!  It is getting less and less fun here, as the budget get worst each year.  Wally does not like the Bankruptcy word. 



    2. Good News—Mayor in Waiting ?

      The Daily Northwestern 10/11 has a story that Tom Fischl is considering running for Mayor in 2013.  The views he describes are more saner than those of the current administration [Council, Zoning, etc.].

      Now if the City can only survive the current administration until 2013.  But then if we can recall the current administration we may have a good candidate [and others for the Council?] ready.

  16. Hard to reconcile …

    A chart recently posted in an article on this site about property taxes showed the tax burden for CITY services was roughly equal between Evanston, Skokie, and Wilmette.  The tax burden for SCHOOLS was where the problem in Evanston is.  And the balance between elementary (65) and high school (202) was incredibly out of balance as compared with neighboring areas.  I'm not informed enough to understand why the school situation is what it is – and I've never had children in the Evanston school system – but it strikes me that while there may be things to improve in the City's portion of the taxes, as citizens, we're missing the forest for the trees to be focused on the City property tax rate instead of more brightly lighting up the issue of the schools tax portion.  This segment accounts for a much larger share of why our property taxes have gotten so ridiculously out of balance.  When homes in town won't sell for $400,000 that have previously sold for as much as $650,000 because they have $12,000/year tax bills – it's an ominous warning of how out of favor and unaffordable our community has become as compared those with tax bills 2/3 to 1/2 that in neighboring communities for properties of similar value.  I am a real estate agent – and increasingly find it an objection of buyers to living in Evanston that the taxes are simply unaffordable – even though the mortgage payment may be.

  17. Increasing property taxes

    Increasing property taxes when homes are being devalued is counter-rational. Reducing costs when revenues are being reduced is rational.

    We have to look at ways to redefine the city and this is not a good direction to take. Sure Northwestern is an issue, always has been and always will be but the Council has to start figuring out ways to balance the existing revenues against the projected costs. Buying property on Howard Street isn't smart; financing renovations to private businesses isn't smart. Letting the fountain square debacle fester for more years is foolish. Health Care benefits for a part-time Council is abusive.

    Yeah, it's tough but please, please, please stop spending money you don't have or just go crazy and raise taxes 20% so the city will be nicely divided between the wealthy and the poor.


  18. Evanston tax pain

    Stupidly, we purchased a condo here in 2010.  Our taxes when we bought (2009 tax year) were $2,800.  For 2010 they went up to $3,200.  I called Larry Suffredin's office – useless.  Now, this loser-city wants more of our dough.  We have two kids, two jobs.  They don't care – none of them do.  There are enough union leeches and limousine liberals to vote these clowns in again and again.

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