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Manager seeks 15% property tax hike

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.

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