About 30 Evanston residents turned out for a two-hour presentation on the city budget Thursday night at the Robert Crown Center.
Peter Braithwaite and Don Wilson.
The meeting was one in a series of information sessions held around town ahead of the City Council’s special budget meeting Saturday.
Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Don Wilson, 4th Ward, hosted the information session, and applauded those who showed up.
“This is the most important thing we do, it reflects our community’s values,” Wilson said.
Marty Lyons, Evanston’s assistant city manager and chief financial officer, outlined the proposed budget.
Evanston has a $6 million dollar deficit, he said, due in a large part to a decline in building permit revenue.
The budget plan includes reducing city staff by 28.3 full time employees, increasing a number of fees and raising property taxes.
A house worth $500,000 dollars would see a property tax hike of about $50, Lyons said.
Lyons acknowledged that most residents don’t want to see increased taxes, layoffs or reduced services. It’s up to City Council to figure out if this proposal is the best way forward. He says these meetings are designed to give residents a chance to voice their concerns and opinions.
Sara Schastok, the retired executive director of the Evanston Community Foundation, attended the meeting and said it was worthwhile. “It was informative the way it was broken down; it explained the budget process,” Schastok said.
Saturday’s public hearing on the 2018 budget will run from from 9 a.m. to noon at the Civic Center.
The City has benefited monetarily from Northwestern University’s purchases of high value building purchases in recent years. As a result the Community Development Department has been a revenue generator. Lesson #1) For all the naysayers who complain about NWU not paying their fair share, here is the proof. Lesson 2) Northwestern keeps the Community Development afloat most but not all of the time; therefore stop hiring staff during the bubbles and outsource at least 50% of the inspections and all residential plan reviews. Take advantage of the services provided by the current vendor SAFEBuilt and ride out the eb and flow of permit revenue to avoid a repeat of this self inflicted wound caused by poor management practices. SAFEBuilt turns residential plan reviews around much faster than staff and their inspectors are just as qualified. Benefits: Cost savings, better service, less fear induced stress on existing full time staff, and can ride out slow permit revenue periods without hitting the tax paying citizens.
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