The city’s finance chief told incoming Evanston aldermen Monday that they will face a tough job balancing the city’s spending with its revenue in a down economy.

The city’s finance chief told incoming Evanston aldermen Monday that they will face a tough job balancing the city’s spending with its revenue in a down economy.

Assistant City Manager and Finance Director Marty Lyons said that compared to many other communities Evanston is doing relatively well, because ot its diverse revenue base.

But he said sales tax revenue for the year is likely, at best, to be stagnant.

The darkest spot in the budget may be real estate transfer tax revenue. The expected intake from that was cut from $4 million a year ago to $3.3 million for this year, and “because we’re seeing fewer transactions at lower prices, we won’t hit that budget this year,” Lyons said.

He offered no new estimate on the total public safety pension liability, which stood at $145 million before the financial markets slumped last fall.

But he suggested that because of state-mandated conservative investment policies by the pension funds the shortfall is likely to be less than what many other retirement plans have experienced.

Lyons added that there is a move in the state legislature to extend the deadline for having the police and fire pensions fully funded. The current deadline is 2033. He said the proposed new deadline would be 2049 — chosen because it’s 40 years into the future.

But Lyons said the legislature is also considering raising health insurance benefits for retired firefighters and extend the benefit period, which “is not the most fiscally responsible approach.”

He said the down economy has increased competition for federal grants the city can apply for. The economic stimulus package may offset that trend, Lyons said, but the city is still waiting to hear what projects it has requested will actually be funded.

Expenses continue to increase, with the city recently settling two union contracts for one year terms. The firefighters deal raises city payroll costs by 3.8 percent, while the settlement with AFSME increase costs 2.9 percent.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Speaking of Alderman…
    I had the privilege of attending the Annual Police Awards on Monday night. I am so thankful for the men and women who serve and protect this city. As each officer received his/her award, we heard a narrative about the police rescuing people from fires and drowning. We heard about confrontation with armed offenders and I believe one of the recipients was the officer who lost his finger in a shooting two weeks ago. I was truly touched and moved to tears during the ceremony. At one point, I looked up and noticed Alderman Jean-Baptiste watching the ceremony with his arms crossed and a look of disgust on his face. Unfortunately, I became distracted and proceeded to watch the Alderman for the remainder of the ceremony. People behind me were talking about it as well. It was clear to me that Alderman Jean-Baptiste does not have the same respect for the members of the Evanston Police Department as I do. That is so disappointing.

    1. Alderman’s side show…
      I too attended the Annual Police Awards last Monday evening at City Hall. I was invited as a friend of an award recipient.I couldn’t have been more proud as I heard the stories of not only my friend’s actions,but of the Department’s as a whole. Story after story illustrated heoric actions of our local Police Department. The reports of Officers rescuing eldery women from burning homes, confronting armed subjects, dismantling large scale burglary rings, and even rescuing drowning individuals sounded more like a dramatic television show than real life. However, it was and is REAL LIFE !
      I was photographing each award recipient when, after the second honoree shook hands with the Mayor, I reviewed the captured photo on my digital camera. I quickly noticed, in the back ground, the complete look of disdain on the face of Alderman Baptiste. I studied that photo for several seconds and then looked again at Baptiste. The look never changed. This intrigued me so I began to watch him as member after member received their award. I can’t say that he never applauded,however he seemed to be determined not to release his folded arms and show his appreciation for our cities heroes. Mr. Baptiste, I wonder if you noticed the young Officer proudly accept his award from the Mayor with a bandaged hand? Well sir, as the other posting correctly stated, he is the Officer who lost his ring finger during the armed confrontation just 1 week prior. Did you notice the loud applause for him as he approached the front of the room? You couldn’t even find it in yourself to contribute to this? Mr. Baptiste…shame on you. Your public display of condescension was well noticed by many. And this includes members of the Evanston Police Department, their mothers, fathers, sisters,brothers, and children. You sir, should be ashamed.

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