Evanston city government almost ground to a halt Monday night.

Mayor Lorraine Morton announced as the City Council meeting started that she had vetoed the city budget approved by the aldermen late last month.

The mayor said she believed the 7 percent property tax increase approved by the council was too large, and the city could get away with making smaller contributions to the police and fire pension plans than what the council had approved.

But city attorney Herb Hill said the veto meant the city would have no budget and be unable to spend money or conduct any other business until a new budget is adopted or the veto was overridden.

And several aldermen insisted the pension payments were absolutely essential to avoid even bigger budget problems in future years.

So, after almost 90 minutes of debate, the aldermen voted unanimously to suspend council rules and override the mayor’s veto, reinstating the budget approved last month.

Mayor Morton said she’d been misinformed by city staff about the impact of her veto and that what she really wanted to do was just veto the pension payments, but she couldn’t figure out from the budget documents how to create a line-item veto of those provisions.

If she had done a line-item veto, Hill said, the city could have continued to operate and the council could have waited until its next meeting to consider what to do about the pension funding.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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