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Proposed city budget calls for layoffs, tax hikes

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Evanston’s proposed 2018 city budget calls for trimming the city’s staff by 28.3 full-time-equivalent employees, imposing new taxes and hiking parking fees to close a projected $6.1 million general fund revenue shortfall.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the revenue gap results primarily from a dropoff in new construction projects at Northwestern University. That’s expected to lead to a $5 million decline in building permit revenue.

Adding to the gap are reductions in expected sales tax and income tax revenue largely caused by changes imposed by the state legislature as part of the new state budget.

The proposed budget, released late this afternoon, would impose a new 20-cents-per-ride ground transportation tax on ride share services like Uber and Lyft. That’s less than half the rate charged by the City of Chicago. The ground transportation tax is expected to generate $100,000 a year in new revenue.

It would also impose a new tax on vacation rentals like AirBnB that’s expected to raise $90,000 a year. City staff is not recommending taxing bed and breakfast establishments, estimating that tax would raise only about $10,000.

It would increase parking deck fees from $95 to $110 a month to raise an additional $550,000, extend non-downtown parking meter hours and raise their rates to match the existing $1 an hour rate and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to raise $450,000, increase surface lot parking rates to $60 a month to raise $160,000 and increase some parking ticket fines.

The plan also calls for raising property taxes by 1.1 percent to generate an additional $421,000 for police and fire pension payments

The budget calls for a 3 percent pay hike for city employees, which will add about $2.4 million to the city’s expenses, but it anticipates a $315,000 reduction in health insurance costs because of changes in health coverage negotiated with city unions.

City staffing levels since 2000.

As part of the staffing cuts the city manager plans to move the Economic Development Division from the manager’s office to the Community Development Department, transfer the Police Department’s Social Services Bureau to the Health Department, consolidate two bureau chief jobs in the Public Works Agency into one and do the same with two recreation center manager jobs in the Parks Department.

Net of interfund transfers, the budget calls for spending a total of $280.5 million in 2018, an increase of $33.4 million from this year. The biggest increases are for capital projects — $16.1 million for the water fund, $9.6 million for the Robert Crown Center and $6.3 million for the library. General fund spending will remain essentially unchanged.

The City Council is scheduled to begin its review of the budget on Monday, Oct. 16.

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