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Resident: Tap surplus to kill tax hike

General fund balance

General fund balance

Evanston's City Council postponed adopting the tax levy for next year after a resident argued Monday that alderman should eliminate the planned property tax increase by tapping what he said is an excessive balance in the city's general fund.

Evanston's City Council postponed adopting the tax levy for next year after a resident argued Monday that alderman should eliminate the planned property tax increase by tapping what he said is an excessive balance in the city's general fund.

Gerald Gordon of 1228 Lake St. said the city's compehensive annual report shows the unreserved general fund balance totals nearly $18.5 million. That's up nearly $1.7 million in the past year.

General fund balance

Highlighted excerpt from page 15 of city comprehensive financial report.

The city's budget policy calls for maintaining a general fund reserve of 8.3 percent to 10 percent of each year's general fund expenditures — or at least one month's worth of spending.

With general fund spending at $85.9 million, the reserve balance would amount to about 21 percent of annual expenditures.

Mr. Gordon said taking $975,000 from the general fund balance could wipe out the need for a property tax increase.

City Finance Director Matthew Grady said he didn't want to respond to Mr. Gordon's suggestion until after he's had a chance to confer with City Manager Julia Carroll.

She was absent from Monday's meeting because of the recent death of her mother.

Ms. Carroll has urged in budget workshop sessions this fall that the city increase its reserves to deal with expected budget problems in coming years caused by a need to increase fire and police pension contributions, deal with increased health care costs and an expected slowdown in the housing market.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, noting that the council has until the end of the year to adopt the tax levy, moved to postpone action on it until the Dec. 11 meeting.

As proposed by city staff, the tax levy would raise the city portion of residents' property tax bills 2.92 percent.

Timothy Schoolmaster, a former trustee of the police pension fund, told the aldermen that they aren't adequately funding the police pension program.

He said the proposed 1.47 percent increase in the pension tax levy for police is totally insufficient, and that at minimum the funding should be increased 21 percent, based on a actuarial study conducted by a consultant to the pension fund.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, called for the council's Administration and Public Works Committee to study funding levels for both the police and fire pension programs.

Related links

2006-07 Evanston City Budget (10MB .pdf file)

Evanston Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (0.8MB .pdf file)

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