City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told residents at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday night that he’s aiming to avoid a general fund property tax increase in the proposed budget he will submit to the City Council next month.

“We’re doing everything in our power so we don’t have to recommend a property tax increase in the general fund,” Bobkiewicz said.

But that doesn’t mean residents won’t be paying more for the bundle of services they get from the city next year.

Last month the City Council approved a report calling for an 11 percent increase in payments to the police and fire pension funds — which also appear on the property tax bill.

This year the pension payments amounted to nearly $14 million — or just over a third of the city’s share of the total property tax bill.

An 11 percent increase in pension payments will mean a nearly 4 percent boost in the total city property tax bill — even assuming payments to the general fund and for debt service are held steady.

In addition, the City Council is already considering a 10 percent increase in water rates as well as issuing $17 million in general obligation bonds to to refinance sewer system improvements.

And, the city’s Library Board voted last month to impose its own tax levy on Evanstonians. The board so far has refused to say how much of a tax increase it’s considering.

Bobkiewicz said it appears the city is on target — based on spending cuts the City Council made in adopting the current budget — to make it through its current fiscal year without a deficit.

But he said city staff is still trying to determine how big a revenue shortfall the city faces for next year — and therefore how much will need to be cut from next year’s spending to keep the budget in balance.

The city manager said that determination is complicated by the transition underway to a calendar year budget — which means the new budget will cover only a 10 month period. Because the city receives much of its income on an irregular schedule, the staff has to do extra work this year to figure out how to be sure the books balance on the new schedule.

But he said the transition to the new budget schedule will give aldermen additional flexibility in determining the tax levy. Under state law, that has to be set by Dec. 15. With the old budget schedule, he said, aldermen had to adopt the levy before they approved a budget two months later.

The first citizen input session on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Tuesday in the City Council Chamber. Bobkiewicz is scheduled to issue his proposed budget on Oct. 8. The full schedule for the budget debate is available online.

The mayor’s budget task force also met Tuesday evening. It’s scheduled to put together a list of recommendations at a final meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21, and present its recommendations to the City Council on Monday, Sept. 27.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. The more things change the more they stay the same

    So Wally B says he is doing everything he can not to recommend a tax increase.

    Really? Four years into a Great Recession the city finally lays off government employees but then rehires three firefighters it laid off in some mysterious and undisclosed deal with the Evanston Fire Union. (not one firefighter lost their job or overtime pay or annual pay increase in these so called budget cuts)

    Water rates go up 10 percent.

    The library branches that Wally and the Council cut in the budget are back in play after an unelected Library Board called a special meeting and without any public hearings voted itself a taxing body. So now we have a new tax for the library system and if voters don’t like the amount of tax this unelected board levys well…tough, go cry a river…this board is accountable to no one but themselves. But voters can have a say in the next Council and mayoral elections.

    The Fifth ward is clearly the hardest hit. Folks there should remember to vote for anyone but the incumbents because the city certainly is not looking out for them or any of its citizenry.

    This whole budget episode has been a display of spineless managing. Layoffs should have occurred back in 2008 as other cities had done.

    So next year when the tax revenues are less, it will be another shameful display of the power  unions and special interests have over the city manager and Council. And as in the past they will run roughshod over the Council and city manager. It’s as if it’s a dance they’re doing together – a show that always has the same ending – government unions give little if anything in budget cuts and consequently taxes rise to make up the difference.

    One thing is clear, we will see a tax increase this year and next year just as we have seen it almost every year in the past.. In other words, unemployment rises, property values decline and taxes go up.

    Goodness gracious, we wouldn’t want government union employees to feel the sting of the Great Recession. There’s no one to blame but ourselves for letting this happen. If you don’t get involved and vote you’re part of the problem.

  2. Maybe business can save our budget

    A news story this morning about Mark Zuckerberg donating $100 million to fix Newark schools made me think.  While our schools don’t need $100 million [I hope] and they would just spend it on new furniture and life long contracts for all employees [and probably triple the non-teaching staff] the city could sure use an ‘angel.’

    Since the city has a reputation of keeping manufacturing and even retail business out with long delays in approval, zoning laws, high taxes and general harassment, those don’t seem likely to come to Evanston.  If the city did not keep trying to punish NU and instead took advance of what it offers, well we’d get a lot more done rather than constant legal and political waste.

    However Evanston is an ideal place for technology businesses with NU Tech. and other departments.  The remainer of the Research Park [is there?] and the incubator allow businesses to start-up but then little is done to keep them [I’m not talking about tax breaks or other give-aways the Council is famous for].  If reasonable rents, low taxes [for everyone], getting the Council, zoning and other agencies off their back [fortunately tech. usally does not need a lot of space] and making them feel welcome instead of being vestiges of the Research Park project that the city would like to forget about, maybe their profits [and hopefully gifts like Zukerberg made] could more than bail us out of our budget, pension woes and provide jobs and a general economy to help all economic levels.

    Business people could tell you about all the firms that had to leave Evanston because of high costs, lack of support and general Evanston problems.  Remember  Larry Page [Google co-founder] worked for such a firm in Evanston.   I have to imagine even the Council could not dream up enough boondoggles to keep Evanston in the present mess if Google was in or even had a branch in Evanston.


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