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Next to last chance to complain about city budget

Most Evanston residents will get what's likely to be their next-to-last chance to complain about next year's city budget tonight.

The City Council is scheduled to introduce the 2021 budget ordinance at its meeting tonight along with several tax levy ordinances to fund the budget.

It’s also scheduled to hold the required “truth in taxation” hearing on the property tax levy. And it’s scheduled to set the compensation for aldermen, the mayor and city clerk who’ll be elected next April.

To help close a projected $8 million revenue shortfall caused by the cororavirus pandemic, city staff is proposing a 5.9% increase in the property tax levy.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas last month reported that property taxes have grown far faster here than incomes and inflation over the past two decades in Evanston and elsewhere in the county.

Her report did not break out the change in tax bills for individual government bodies. Many of those agencies, like school districts, are limited by tax cap legislation to increases at the rate of inflation unless they seek voter approval for a larger increase. But others, including home-rule municipalities like Evanston, are not subject to such constraints.

While Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, last month proposed eliminating the property tax increase for next year, but failed to come up with any alternatives that seemed palatable to his colleagues, after the city manager said eliminating the tax hike would mean cutting roughly another 50 city jobs.

The City Council is expected to adopt the 2021 budget at its meeting on Nov. 23. Residents of the 2nd 5th and 6th wards are invited to a virtual ward meeting about the budget Wednesday night.

While the aldermen this year explored a variety of potential changes in the pay scheme for the next City Council, the pay plan ordinances up for adoption tonight make no change in the compensation for elected officials.

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