If you’ve wondered why property taxes in Evanston are high — here’s one key reason.

The city doesn’t collect nearly as much in sales tax revenue per capita as some other nearby communities. And so, it ends up with higher rates for property taxes and other fees to provide a similar level of services.

Here’s a chart, adapted from one provided in a recent City of Evanston budget memo, that illustrates the problem.

Evanston ranks 31st among the 56 Cook County municipalities that impose a home rule sales tax in the amount of money per capita that the tax raised during the state’s fiscal year that ended in June.

Now that’s a shade more per capita than what Wilmette, ranked 32nd, raises. But it’s a whole lot less than what our neighbors to the west, in Skokie, pull in.

Skokie, with the Westfield Old Orchard mall and other retail centers, collected $216.03 in home rule sales tax per resident — more than two-and-a-half times the $82.45 per resident Evanston received.

And every time you shop at Old Orchard you’re also paying sales tax at a higher rate than you would in Evanston. Skokie’s home rule sales tax rate is 1.25 percent, the same as Chicago’s, while Evanston, like more than half the other municipalities in the county with a home rules sales tax, charges just 1 percent.

Evanston could consider raising its tax rate even higher than that. River Grove, at 2 percent, has the highest rate in the county.

But sales taxes are generally considered to be regressive, since lower income people tend to spend a higher percentage of their money on goods that are subject to the tax. So it’s not clear whether increasing the sales tax rate would be very appealing to Evanston aldermen.

A quarter-percent rate hike could bring in about $1.5 million in new revenue — assuming it didn’t drive customers away from shopping in Evanston.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Promote It!

    Quick! Somebody tell the chamber of commerce to promote the fact that it’s cheaper to shop in Evanston!

      1. No such thing as free parking

        There is no such thing as free parking, simply doesn’t exist.  Maybe you think the lots at Old Orchard were constructecd and maintained by little parking lot fairies who do it all for free.  Maybe you think those little fairies also pay the substantial r.e. taxes imposed upon that land.

        Meaning?  You pay for parking, it is simply hidden in the cost of goods charged to you.  The only time parking is free is if you go, walk around, but buy nothing.  Otherwise you are actually paying a much higher rate to park there than you do in Evanston.  Really people, the truth is that there is no such thing as free parking, ever, not even in your homes driveway.     

        1. A huge hassle

          Not having to come with a purse full of quarters…keep track of how much time is on my meter, or wondering if I’ll get a ticket is the huge plus with shopping in the other suburbs.   Plain and simple.  that’s all my friends and i care about…how much of a hassle is it to be in Evanston?  A HUGE one!

        2. Less walkable

          Parking minimums and the huge parking lots they create make cities less dense and therfore less walkable.

  2. Primary reason real estate taxes continue to increase

    Wages, benefits and defined benefit pensions provided to public sector employees have compounded at 4% over the last 10 years relative to 1% growth for the median household in Evanston over the same time period. Today, 75-80% of budgets for D65, D202, City of Evanston, and other taxing bodies are for employee costs; salary, benefits and pensions.

    The question becomes, do Evanston taxpayers want to continue to pay higher and higher taxes in order to fund 4% compensation increases or should compensation grow at a slower rate? Or do taxpayers want to see government bodies restructure/reorganize to deliver the same services at a lower cost. For example, the Evanston Township was eliminated and a duplicative government body was eliminated and the same services continue to be provided. How many people miss the Township structure?

    Or will taxpayers accept a lower level of services and understand that fewer services or shorter hours of government operations is an option to consider?

    At the end of the day, there are finite resources that Evanston residents can afford to pay in taxes or are willing to pay. The recent repeal of Cook County’s soda tax appears to demonstrate that politicians can’t just continue to raise taxes.

  3. Another reason for high property taxes in Evanston
    Too many institutions are avoiding paying property taxes…

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *