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Religious leaders plan budget protest

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Leaders of several Evanston religious congregations are organizing a rally this evening outside the Civic Center to protest nearly 60 percent of the cuts proposed in next year’s city budget.

The organizers, in a social mdia post, say they’re objecting to the proposed closure of Fire Station 4 and the Gibbs Morrision Cultural Center and to cuts in Health Department funding.

Restoring those cuts would put a $2.5 million hole in the city manager’s proposed budget, which now calls for $4.3 million in expense reductions and $3.3 million in increases in taxes and fees.

The organizers include Rabbi Andrea Coustan London of Beth Emet Synagogue, Pastor Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church and Pastor Daniel Ruen of Grace Lutheran Church.

In their call to protest they don’t voice objections to the elimination of eight police positions in the police department or the proposed elimination of wage increases for non-union city employees or several other proposed budget reductions.

They do say that “if given the time and space to deliberate and discuss, we will wholeheartedly work with the city to find new sources of revenue, identify immoral budgetary exceptions and remove wasteful spending.”

At the direction of aldermen, the city’s proposed budget avoids imposing a property tax rate increase for 2019. If a $2.5 million budget gap were to be closed through the property tax, it would require roughly a six percent rate increase to do the job.

The rally is planned for 5:30 p.m., a half hour before the scheduled start of City Council meetings.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz indicated at Saturday’s budget meeting that he plans to restore one of the health department cuts — the job of the communicable disease specialist, which is required to qualify the city for some state funding.

And some aldermen have said they want to find ways to keep the Gibbs Morrison Center open.

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