Evanston aldermen tonight adopted the city’s 2019 budget and approved a raft of tax and fee increases to help fund it. Here’s a recap of our live coverage of the meeting.

The council meeting is scheduled to start with an executive session at 6 p.m. with the public meeting to immediately follow that.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

The aldermen just before going into their executive session, held in the aldermanic library.

Update 6:35 p.m.: Executive session is over. We expect the public Council meeting to start shortly.

Public meeting called to order at 6:39 p.m.

Mayor announces death of Pandora Pratt, police department records clerk. She died recently of cancer. Had worked for the city in a variety of capacities since 2002.

Mayor announces Small Business Saturday … being celebrated this Saturday, Nov. 24.

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, announces promotion for Small Business Saturday and various other events coming up through the holiday season.

Main Dempster Mile also announces plans for the holiday season.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says parking is free in parking garages on Saturdays starting this Saturday through the holidays.

(Update 11/21/18: Actually, this year to park free in the garages you have to get your parking validated at a local business. But, if you have the Park Evanston mobile app, the validation will also work at meters and city lots. And it works on weekdays after 5 p.m. as well as all day on Saturdays. Parking on Sundays is still free until next year.)

Fire Chief Brian Scott leads presentation regarding city’s upgrade to “Class 1” ISO fire protection status. Only 17 fire departments out of 1,200 in Illinois have achieved that rating.

Public Comment

Mayor says speakers will have 2:30 each for comments tonight.

Elliot Zachin speaks in opposition to contracting out victim services to the YWCA.

Two others object to the same cuts

Melissa Appelt urges elimination of cuts to mental health board funding … notes those funds are back in the latest budget proposal.

End of public comment at 7:38 p.m.

1 – Agreement for crossing guard services with Andy Frain Services

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Company rep says it works in 18 municipalities in Chicago area. Plans to hire existing crossing guards.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says parking garage vendor years ago hired Evanston workers first year, but then laid them off for cheaper employees after a year.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, asks about transtion

Company rep says wants to make it as seemless as possible.

Doesn’t plan to change uniforms or crossing guard assignments. Will do any training in Evanston.

Contract approved 8-1. Suffredin votes no.

36 – 2019 Fiscal Year budget

City manager says youth and young adult division at this point makes sense to leave as is, at least through the middle of next year … with Kevin Brown in charge.

Says will continue review of human services programs and have a report by mid-year.

Budget balancing worksheet revisions

A few revisions to budget balancing worksheet at p. 269 of the packet.

Add two parking enforcement officers … expecting $300K in new revenue (instead of previous estimate of $400K). Also expects increase int ticket revenue from the change to street sweeping policy of $300K.

Plan to reduce reimbursement of telecommunications tax to the school districts to half of the previously proposed cut. Looking at $40K cost instead of $100K cost.

Restoring mental health board funding to this year’s level.

Overall have balanced budget with surplus of about $200K.

Rainey moves to increase amusement tax from 4 percent to 5 percent on for-profit. Says also wants to propose a 2.5 percent amusement tax on all live theater that’s not church of elementary and high school run. Says those who attend the events will pay that tax.

Fleming wants to exclude Evanston Childrens Theater. Revelle wants to exclude Mudlark Theater.

We charge people extra to have their garbage collected, people who support the arts should pay for that as well. Says arts groups came to the city complain.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says she doesn’t support either proposal. Says Space pays amusement tax here. They have a similar location in Chicago which is exempt from their tax because they have less than 500 seats.

Says Space has been an economic engine here. Doesn’t want them to close their doors and decide to move down to Chicago.

Says shouldn’t be picking and choosing which not for profits to tax. Says want people to come to events here.

The arts community asked to have a coordinator for arts programs, Say city manager says will find that. Doesn’t think either of these increases are necessary.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says he agrees with Wynne. Says city is benefiting from food and alcohol taxes related to entertainment events.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says there’ll be cost associated with remitting the tax, they’re barely getting by. Says Evanston also has a 6 percent tax on alcohol. It’s consistently increasing the differential — will make rehabbing a place on the other side of Howard.

Fleming says almost everything proposed for cuts has been put back in the budget. Frustrated that want to save anything but don’t know how will pay for it.

If believe in arts, money doesn’t grow on trees — have to pay for it somehow. 

Rainey says when first put liquor tax on people said nobody would open a bar here. Now have to beat restaurants away with a stick. Another percent on a $40 ticket in space will cost another 40-cents.

Rainey revises motion to only raise the existing tax to 5 percent from 4 percent.

That motion fails 3-6.

Rainey objects to new charge of $25 for “wrong stuff” in recycling cans. Says will always find a can that has something dumped in it by somebody else. Person who owns the can can’t possibly keep an eye on the can all the time. That’s just a mean and malevelent tax.

Braithwaite seconds.

Dave Stoneback, public works director, says current special pickup charge is $60 to $100 … so now raising it to $80 … says are talking about people throwing pumpkins into recycling can … or put plastic bags that aren’t recyclable.

Says try to educate residents about proper materials. 

Says only looking to hit repeat offenders who continually don’t recycle appropriately.

Rainey says should just take away their can.

Says it administer program appropriately will always find problem issues.

City manager says there is an issue with contamination. Says generally are pretty judicious in dealing with code enforcement. 

Braithwaite says should do more education rather than assessing fines.

Wilson says it costs money to have contaminated items in the recycling stream and puts workers at risk.

Fiske says she agrees with Rainey. Says should take some steps in between before start fining. 

Stoneback says says the near off campus area and the area west of Dodge between Church and Emerson are two spots where there are major enforcement issues.

City manager proposes withdrawing the change. Says are larger issues, should bring SWANCC and Groot into the discussion. That will cut $40K in revenue from the solid waste funds.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says the problems seem to be in her ward. Suggests having staff come to ward meetings.

Rainey asks for update on value of recycling and economics of it today.

Victim services discussion

Health Director Evonda Thomas Smith says have had trouble filling victim services positions. Says police chief said chaplains couldn’t provide 24×7 coverage. Says YWCA Executive Director Karen Singer said they’ve been providing victim services programs since 1985, considered experts in the area. Think city’s program is a duplication of servies. Says can do same service for half of what city is paying. Says do serve men as well as women and do court advocacy — have been doing that for 18 years.

Thomas Smith says because of city’s fiscal problems this looks like good option.

Says YWCA can’t do death notifications. Says health department can pick that up. Also city has successful relationship for mental health services with Presence Behavioral Health (another service that YWCA wouldn’t be able to provide).

Says supports the YWCA providing the service.

Manager says city will save about $100K by transitioning the service.

Rainey says proposal sound chaotic. Says it’s a police department issue. Says new chief will be on the job by January 1. Suggests returning victim services to police department. Suggests getting a report by June 2019 on the programs.

Says the service is so important. Says the new proposal will be a disaster.

Fleming says she’s concerned about the transitions.

Fiske says has huge amount of respect for Karen Singer.

Thomas Smith says division of work would be … 

  • Sexual assault by Northwest Casa
  • Domestic violence by YWCA
  • Mental health by Presence Health (now 2 ft and 1 half time social workers)

Says city is not covering 24×7 now.

Manager says should leverage skills of all the city’s staff and make best use of them.

Police Chief Richard Eddington says will need to have the death notification responsibility taken over by police officers. Says that’s done in other departments but hasn’t been done here because victims services has been available.

City manager proposes keep the two filled positions in humans services also provide 6 months of funding for the contract with the YWCA and take another look at the situation in April.

This costs about $100K more than previously budgeted. Reduces budget surplus to $140K.

Rainey says she service doesn’t belong in the health department.

City manager says are already in the human services business — have four social workers in health department.

Fiske says she agrees with the city manager’s proposal.

2 through 16 general obligation debt property tax abatements

Approved 7-2 Rue Simmons and Suffredin vote no.

17 – City of Evanston 2018 Tax Levy

$31.54 million up from $30.1 million last year.

Finance Director Hitesh Desai says its a 4.4 percent increase with the Washington National TIF recapture.

Says if a property was vaues at $100,000 then the tax increase would be just under $20.

Approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

18 – Library Fund 2018 tax levy

Fleming says library should close the Chicago-Main branch once the Robert Crown library branch opens.

Approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Rainey vote no.

19 – Solid waste fund tax levy

Approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

20 – Special Service Area #4 2018 Tax Levy (for Downtown Evanston)

Approved 9-0.

21 – Special Service Area #6 Tax Levy (for Main Dempster Mile)

Approved 9-0

22 – Increase water meter rates

Approved 9-0

23 – Decrease sewer rates

(Net of water increase and sewer decrease is no change.)

Approved 9-0.

24 – Increase in solid waste and and sanitation service charges

(As amended to eliminate $25 fee for recycling violations.)

Approved 5-4. Rue Simmons and Suffredin and Fleming and Fiske vote no.

25 – Moving vehicle parking and storage containers on public ways

Approved 9-0.

26 – Parking in predominantly residential areas

Increasing fee from $15 to $30

Approved 8-1. Suffredin votes no.

27 – Parking violation penalties.

Approved 5-4. Rue Simmons, Suffredin, Fleming and Fiske vote no.

28 – Parking meter zones

Increases most meters from $1 per hour to $1.50 in 2019 and to $2 in 2020.

Various other changes.

Approved 5-4. Rue Simmons, Suffredin, Revelle and Fiske vote no.

29 – Wheel tax increase

Approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

30 – Real Estate Transfer Tax increase

Approved 9-0.

31 – Zoning review expediting fees

Approved 9-0.

32 – Hotel Motel tax … add bed and breakfasts

Approved 9-0

33 – Licensing of vacation rentals … fee increase

Approved 9-0

34 – Vacation rental inspecion requirements

Approved 9-0

35 – Transportation network tax increase

Approved 9-0

36 – 2019 FY budget

Total expenditure $319,165,450.

General fund expenditures $114,153,373.

(Only two changes tonight.)

Approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

Call of the wards

Wilson says didn’t agree with everything …but voted yes because of collaborative nature of the budget process.

Suffredin … lock up your stuff … its theft to unsecured vehicles season in the 6th Ward.

Revelle … MWRD voted Thursday for roadway easement across 10th hole of Canal Shores golf course in Wilmette. Stay tuned for further development.

Rainey … tks to all the people who showed up to comment on budget. Sometimes nobody oes.

Fleming … voted no on several budget items because concerned about city spending.

Fiske .. .thanks to all who commented on budget process. Suggests can look a little differently for next year .. .but did best could under real difficult circumstanes.

Braithwaite … tks to residents who spoke out on budget. Knew it was going to be difficult … and it was. DPOE now in 2nd Ward at Church and Darrow.

City Manager … tks city council for diligence through the budget process. Can only live within our means. Notes addition of $1 million for debt service and $1.5 million to increase general fund reserves. Big steps to improve fiscal soundness. Thanks staff who worked on budget.

Meeting adjourned at 10:06 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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