Evanston’s City Council Monday will consider plans to spend $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and $10 million from the real estate transfer tax for reparations programs
The ARPA proposal, from the city’s Reparations Committee, calls for spending the money on economic development activities.
A staff memo cites federal guidelines noting that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on “lower-income Americans and communities of color.”
And it suggests focusing the assistance on “qualified census tracts” and similar census tract block groups with high levels of poverty.
The staff memo does not address whether the federal government’s rules would allow its funds to be used for programs — like Evanston’s reparations program — that so far have explicitly excluded non-Black residents from eligibility.
The City Council pledged in 2019 to spend a total of $10 million on reparations programs over the course of a decade, with funds to come from the local share of taxes on recreational cannabis sales.
But actual revenue from the cannabis tax has fallen far short of that level because only one dispensary has opened in the city.
The staff memo says that since July, when the state authorized a batch of additional dispensary licenses, only one prospect has contacted the city to indicate an interest in considering opening a dispensary here — so it remains uncertain whether Evanston is ever likely to get additional dispensaries.
The staff memo indicates that City Manager Luke Stowe believes additional staff would be needed to develop and manage the reparations program if Council approves the plan for ARPA funding.
A separate proposal from the Reparations Committee calls on the Council to adopt a resolution to transfer to the reparations fund the first $1 million a year collected from real estate transfer taxes on properties selling for over $1.5 million for the next 10 years.
The wording of the resolution indicated the $1 million amount would be in addition to whatever funds are generated by the cannabis tax, and so would represent an increase in total funding for reparations programs.
A staff memo indicates that RETT revenues on property transfers of over $1.5 million easily topped $1 million last year and this, though they did not quite reach $500,000 in 2020.