Evanson City Manager Julia Carroll’s proposed 2008-09 budget, released this afternoon, calls for a 15.15 percent increase in the city’s property tax levy.

Despite the pressure on the budget caused by the city’s looming police and fire pension funding shortfall, the plan calls for adding six new city workers, including two new police officers for a tactical unit approved by the City Council last month, while eliminating nine positions, most of which are currently vacant.

The property tax hike would add roughly $300 to the bill of a property owner who now pays $10,000 in property taxes to all local government units

The property tax increase is designed to collect nearly $5.3 million in additional revenue.

Of the increase, $2.3 million would go to the police pension fund, $1.5 million to the fire pension fund, $1.1 million to the debt service fund and $432,000 to general fund programs including recreation and library operations.

Last year Carroll proposed a 5.47 percent property tax increase, which was whittled down to a 3.35 percent boost during the council’s budget review process.

She also proposed, and the council adopted, a net reduction of 17 city jobs last year.

In her budget message the manager says that she used “a more participatory process” to develop this year’s budget, in which department directors identified ways to cut $1.1 million from an initially projected increase of $2.4 million in general fund programs.

Despite those cuts, the projected general fund spending increase for the coming year is just under 9 percent, about half of which represents a one-time transfer of $4 million from the general fund balance to the fire and police pension funds.

In addition to the property tax hike, the budget proposes a variety of fee hikes, including:

  • Raising the garbage collection fee, paid on the water bill, from $5 to $6.95 per month to reflect actual pickup costs.
  • Imposing a $40 per unit licensing fee on rental apartments. That would let the city increase the frequency of its apartment inspections to once a year and raise a net of $414,000 after the cost of hiring an inspector and a clerk to run the program.
  • Increasing vehicle sticker fees from $60 to $75.

The City Council holds its first budget meeting this year at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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19 Comments

  1. Rental licensing fee
    Regarding this fee: I’m all for an extra inspector, but if we’re going to have a clerk, I’d like to see files with contact information kept on Evanston’s landlords, and records confirming that each tenant and landlord have recieved a copy of the landlord-tenant ordinance (with fines levied if this isn’t the case.) For landlords, I’d also like confirmation that they have recieved basic information on appropriate property standards ordinances, tips on tenant screening and information about the nuisance premise ordinance. Hopefully, being able to prove that this information was given to landlords in writing prior to renting units will help future court cases against slumlords. Another useful tool a clerk could offer (both for neighbors and potential renters) would be a searchable database of landlords’ rental properties and contact information.

  2. “Licensing Fees”
    The proposed budget will impose a $40 per unit licensing fee on all rental apartments.

    Guess who pays the $40 dollars? The tenants will pay via increased monthly rents. Tenants already pay property taxes, albeit indirectly, through their landlords. Therefore, tenants are directly penalized for being tenants and not homeowners. This is an obvious violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In other words, the government cannot apply the laws differently for different citizens. The City violates this Amendment all the time. Visit cityofevanston.info around mid-January to learn more about this subject.
    Michael Lee

    1. Don’t be silly – fees are applied to all kinds of situations.
      Homeowners pay all kinds of fees tenants don’t pay: property transfer stamps, construction permits, etc. You could apply the same argument about the City Sticker discriminating against car owners vs bike owners, or to house owners vs condo owners about trash collection fees. While this fee will probably get passed on to tenants, it will be paying directly for services used by tenants and landlords (primarily services which protect tenants.) Not so with many other City fees, which go into the general budget.

      I can see why tenants don’t want to pay more to lease, but the Fourteenth Amendment just doesn’t apply here.

      1. Necessarily incomplete argument.
        Obviously I can’t present a comprehensive argument in a few short sentences, but the grievance is sound. This website is not the best forum for that discussion anyway.

        A second and more insidious problem with the proposed fee however, is that is will grant the City the power to determine who may rent their property and who may not. If the City doesn’t like you, or otherwise desires to force a certain behavior against your interests, it simply denies you a license to rent your apartment(s). The potential for abuse and retaliation is endless. Due process protections are out the window along with our Fifth Amendment.

        I could go on with several other potential Constitutional violations, but as I said above, this probably not the best forum.

        Michael Lee

        1. Fees are not the same as Landlord Licenses
          Michael, I think you’re getting a fee confused with landlord licensing – which, for the record, I am FOR, even though City Council didn’t appear to understand the benefits. (I appreciate you trying to keep your answer succinct) I’m not shedding a tear for property owners who can’t meet basic criterion for maintaining their property, screeing their tenants, and otherwise being good neighbors. We are desperately in need of resources to deal with slumlords in this town. Also, getting rid of bad buildings is GOOD for tenants. Unfortunately, it can only take one bad building to have a serious negative impact on an entire neighborhood.

          Unfortunately, all this fee does is pay for a few needed services – I wish it could do more.

          1. It not all about the landlords Michele!
            Michele – why don’t we have a tenant ‘s ordinance to screen the tenants? Why does the city assume that the landlords are creating all the problems? First lets get rid of the bad tenant who in many cases are criminals and drug dealers, then the neighborhoods would be better.

            This $40 dollars is just another fee the city is using to raise taxes to pay for the pension mess.

          2. Landlords are responsible for their property
            Junad, where do you think the buck should stop? If Landlords screened their tenants properly, we could say goodbye to many of the people you mentioned in another post, the “100 or so” whose arrest , as you said, would largely put a stop to crime in Evanston. How else do you propose to get rid of the bad tenants? Landlords are responsible for what happens on their property. They should be proactive and make sure their tenants aren’t going to cause problems in the neighborhood – and it’s much easier to prevent a problem than it is to try to solve an existing one. If the $40 goes solely to the inspector and the clerk as promised, and we get good results from both landlords and tenants, it’s a good use.

            You often say things should be done differently, but don’t offer policy or strategy changes – just the results you want to see. When I get a magic wand, I’m going to do it that way, too. Saves time and tax dollars.

          3. Looks like the city is using this is just another excuse ——

            Looks like the city is using this is just another excuse ——to tax people – Michele.
            While I can not say the city has the legal means to screen tenants – it would to better to put an ordinance in place that require tenants to be screen through the city – that is obtain a cerificate to rent in Evanston – this would upset some as a loss of freedom -but if the city was forced to put all the criminal offensive of prospective tenants on a sheet then the landlord would be more knowledge who they are renting to. Michele you have the view that the other guy is responsible not the indivduals who are actually causing the problems. Once a landlord rents to a criminal family – they have a hard time getting rid of them. Property inspections are a waste – getting rid of the criminals is a better approach.

            It is my view city council members do not want to admit they have criminals living here and that is the problem – they want to side step the issue and say landlord are responsible – you think I can’t solve problems what problems has the council solved lately? 15.5% tax increase is no solution.

          4. Property inspections are vital
            And your proposal for the City to screen all the tenants on behalf of the landlords would be paid for by picking the money we harvest sustainably from the trees?

            I agree that it’s difficult for a landlord to get rid of a bad tenant. That’s the point of screening, and why landlords should be held accountable for doing so.

            I vehemently disagree that property inspections are a waste – in our neighborhood, the inspectors have uncovered buildings with basements full of raw sewage, almost -collapsed balconies and problems with gas hookup. They’ve found a backyard that was a rat haven. These issues were addressed, but if left alone, any of these problems had the potential to cost the City millions of dollars.

            In general, if there are governmental costs incurred by a minority, then I’d rather use a fee to cover those costs – rather than make all taxpayers pay the cost.

          5. what do you think I mean by screening of tenants?
            Michele the city does not need to screen tenants for credit or rental history -let the landlords – I am suggesting the screen for arrest and criminal background only – this gives the landlord additional information not to rent to these individuals or their families. If the landlord has 5 renters he than has an additional tool to weed out tenants – you seem to have no problem with the $40 being charged a landlord but what if the tenant had to pay the city $10 for a screening with the police?

          6. City inspection includes inspecting tenants?
            City inspection does not inspect tenants. It just inspects properties based on building codes. I can understand there has to be some inspection by the city to keep some standards, but annual inspection and fund it with the fees?

            This inspection has nothing to do with inspecting tenants. Is inspector going to ask for criminal records or drug test tenants? If city inspection really did inspect tenants, I would imagine the cost incurred would be different.

            I find it little sneaky while trying to raise property taxes, the ‘proposal’ calls for inspection which really does not minimize city’s spending, but adds additional spending costs that would be ultimately incurred by property owners, who is forced to pay higher taxes.

            The other article on number of city staff growing faster than population just points out that city is not being managed as it should be.

            The question that all Evanston tax payers must ask themselves is do I really want to pay all that property tax for what city is doing? I have been reading this website for about a year now and had I known about all this BS that goes on city, I would have never made Evanston my home and pay taxes to support this BS.

          7. Landlord License
            No confusion, they are the same. Wake up. The landlord license is yet another new tax, plain and simple. It is not something that is going to benefit the community in any way shape or form. You are obviously not a landlord or a renter, so you could care less about the cost, because someone else is paying for it. I seriously doubt that you pay property taxes either. Well I am a landlord, who works and lives in Evanston; and I can tell you that we already submit to periodic inspections by the city to ensure that the buildings comply with current codes, and that the safety of our tenants and neighbors has been met. So paying for some trumped up license adds nothing. It is a tax that will go to fund something else, that has little to do with property standards.

            I also take issue with your comment about screening tenants. You use phrases and words like, bad buildings, slumlords, and negative impact, in a way which implys that we should discriminate against students, minority groups, etc., in order to keep your neighborhood a certain way. That is not only offensive, it is a violation of law.

          8. More controls are needed on rentals in Evanston
            Rick,

            I am the landlord of an out-of-state property, as well as a resident of Evanston. As such, I understand the perspectives on both sides of the issue, and I come down firmly in favor of a rental licensing program in Evanston.

            The city in which my rental property is located recently decided to establish a rental licensing program similar to the ordinance proposed in Evanston. This new rule was indeed a burden on me as a small business owner — the fees were even higher than Evanston’s, and the city has requirements that are not friendly to older, vintage units. In addition, the knowledge that the city could cut off my source of revenue at any time if I choose to rent to problem tenants or let the property become run-down is stressful. However, I also understand that this is a business that I chose to enter, and I have the obligation to our tenants and to the community at large to provide safe, clean housing, and to avoid renting to individuals that would bring illegal or disruptive activities to the neighborhood.

            As a resident, I am thrilled that Evanston is considering treating its citizens with the same concern. I live in the Brummel Park neighborhood, an area that has more than its share of problem rental buildings. The neighbors in this part of town have fought negligent landlords over unsafe units (including sewer leakages inside and outside buildings, unsecured properties, illegal units, unsafe stairwells, trash hording, and unmowed lawns). We have followed court cases in which the absentee landlords seem to get perpetual continuances and ridiculously low fines. We have complained to the city and the police over known (and blatant) gang and drug buildings, only to see the same slow pace of change.

            Yes, there are city standards in place right now, but they are clearly not strong enough to allow the city to censure or get rid of the landlords that are causing problems. It is time that the city becomes serious about ensuring the safety of all its residents. Under this new ordinance, tenants will be assured that they will be provided with a safe living environment from a landlord who is known to the city, and the rest of the residents of Evanston will be better protected against hazardous buildings and those housing illegal activity.

          9. Due diligence from landlords
            It is certainly illegal and inappropriate to discriminate: under “Fair Housing,” The City of Evanston website states “Our Fair Housing laws provide an opportunity to secure to all persons living and/or working, or desiring to live and/or work in the City of Evanston an equal opportunity to view, purchase, lease, rent, or occupy real estate without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, familial status, or national origin of any individual.” However, landlords can be held liable for the behavior of their tenants if they are found to be committing criminal acts that affect their neighbor’s quality of life. Tenant screening is a way for landlords to protect their own property and that of their neighbors, and is perfectly legal so long as every potential tenant is subjected to the same standards. It is part of due diligence, and potentially saves the cost of eviction should a tenant prove to be irresponsible.

            As for the fee, I maintain that some part of the cost of the housing code compliance program should be put on the end users – landlords and tenants, as a reasonable part of the cost of doing business as a landlord.

  3. Who gave Ms Caroll the direction to propose a 15.15% hike?
    I do not recall the council giving Ms. Caroll direction to propose a budget with a 15.15% tax hike – did they meet in private and give her the go ahead? This is nothing more than an excessive tax hike coupled with the usually add on to the fees. I suspect it will be a waste of time to attend the budget hearings if this is the case. Most likely we will get a few of the council members complaining about the hike and how they are concern. Maybe the Mayor will do her classic I will veto it since I don’t want high taxes – but in the end they will all vote for it and stick it to the taxpayers.

    What is interesting there appears to be no attempt for real cost cuts – it is very easy to ask the taxpayers to continue to pay for the waste and continue screw up the council members have created.

    What everyone better understand this is just the begining since they haven’t come close to solving the pension mess. At least the public will not be fool into voting for the $1 real estate transfer tax believing it will solve all our tax problems.

    It is very likely next year we will see another 20% tax increase!

    1. Pension fund
      How did the pension fund get to be so underfunded in the first place? Who administers the pension? Why does the City of Evanston still give pensions to employees in an age when defined benefit plans have all but disappeared from the private sector?

      1. Why pensions …
        The city still provides defined benefit pensions to its employees because it is required to do so by state law. Talk to your state lawmaker about that one.
        The underfunding is a long story. Search for “pension” here on Evanston Now to learn more.
        — Bill

  4. confused about 15% property tax hike
    I recently purchased a home in Evanston, and I’m confused about the taxes. This article states that the proposed 2008-09 budget calls for a 15.15% increase in the city’s property tax levy. The article then goes to say that “the property tax hike would add roughly $300 to the bill of a property owner who now pays $10,000 in property taxes.” Isn’t that a 3% increase? Can anyone please clarify?

    thank you

    1. Tax Increase
      The 15% increase is an increase in taxes levied by the city only. The example you reference includes taxes by all other taxing bodies: schools, counties, Met. Sewer District, etc.

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