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Manager seeks 5.5% property tax hike

City Manager Julia Carroll calls for increasing property taxes 5.5 percent and cutting the city's workforce 2.6 percent in her new budget proposal to City Council.

Most of the tax increase for 2007-08 would be used to cover shortfalls in funding the city's police and fire pension funds.

Ms. Carroll proposes eliminating some health department services that the city hopes to have local hospitals pick up.

She would also eliminate two of the city's 12 departments — folding facilities management into the public works department and having the human relations department's work picked up by other units.

In all, the city manager proposes eliminating 29 full-time-equivalent positions, but she also wants to add 9.5 new positions — including a full-time emergency preparedness manager, a youth coordinator, a sustainable programs coordinator and an information technology project specialist.

The city manager had earlier said that to avoid a tax increase completely the city might have to lay off as many as 38 workers. By contrast, she said that to avoid all layoffs, the city would have to raise the property tax by as much as 13 percent.

The proposed 5.5 percent property tax increase is nearly double the 2.9 percent increase contained in the 2006-07 city budget.

The city's property tax levy represents about 20 percent of a homeowner's total property tax bill. Most of the rest goes to Evanston's two school districts.

The budget also calls for a one-third increase in the recycling fee to $5 per month and relabeling it a sanitation charge. The increase would raise the annual revenue from the program to $1 million — about a quarter of the cost of the city's refuse and recycling programs.

Copies of the proposed budget were distributed to aldermen last Friday, but are not expected to be available to the public until Wednesday at the City Clerk's office. They were scheduled to be available online later today from the city web site.

The City Council holds the first of three scheduled workshops on the budget at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Council Chambers at the Civic Center. The aldermen have until the end of February to adopt a budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1.

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