Evanston Now readers split into three groups when asked about how much of the the City of Evanston’s budget gap should be closed by raising property taxes.
To close its projected budget gaps over the next two years by raising property taxes, Evanston would have to increase its property tax rate by 16 percent. Asked what percentage increase they’d be willing to accept over that two-year period:
- Just over 40 percent of respondents said no increase at all.
- Just under 40 percent opted for a 2 or 4 percent increase.
- 18 percent said they could accept an increase of 6, 8 or 10 percent.
- Less than 2 percent said they’d be willing to accept an increase greater than 10 percent.
The online survey drew completed responses from 121 people.
Recreation program user fees
Readers also said they believe the city should increase the share of recreation program costs that are covered by user fees.
Told that 53 percent of those program costs are recovered from fees now and that raising the recovery rate to 63 percent would trim the budget gap by about $1 million:
- 20 percent thought program fees should be reduced.
- 27 percent said the recovery rate should be increased to the 63 percent level.
- 38 percent suggested raising it even more, to 75 percent.
- 15 percent said fees should be raised closer to 100 percent of program costs.
Spending by department
When asked what departments should have their spending levels reduced to close the budget gap, survey respondents on average suggested modest reductions to the three largest departments: Police, Fire and Parks.
But they also suggested significant increases in spending for two smaller expense centers — general city administration and libraries.
The results on this question were distorted by a handlful of survey participants who recommended spending all of the city’s budget on their favorite department. While that may have been cathartic for the individual, it’s unlikely to work as public policy. We’ll try to more carefully craft questions in future surveys to make it harder to game the results that way.
In responses to demographic questions:
- 94 percent of respondents said they live in Evanston.
- 88 percent said they own property in Evanston subject to property tax.
- 13 percent said that they or someone in their family works for the city or holds another public-sector job.
The age distribution of survey respondents was:
- 2.5 percent between ages 18-24
- 16.5 percent between ages 25-34.
- 43 percent between ages 35-54
- 38 percent age 55 or over.
As with all surveys in which respondents self-select to take part, there are a variety of unanswerable questions about whether the respondents are representative of the public at large.