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.

Demographics

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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. No taxes, but more services

    While this is a small survey, 121 people, and one can argue about how representative this group of people are in Evanston, it does provide some interesting information. People want services, but don't want to pay for them. It's become the American way, "have my cake and eat it too", and/or let someone else pay for it.

    And if it's MY SERVICE you are reducing or eliminating, scream and yell and intimidate our elected officials.

    Objectivity, thoughtful analysis, considerate discussion, appropriate assumptions are not respected or followed during these times.

    People will hopefully soon recognize that resources are limited and everyone is going to have to tighten their belt. Taxpayers are maxed out, many residents are unemployed/underemployed, our City is in debt, the State of Illinois doesn't have any extra money, and the Federal government is struggling.

    So what can be done? Now is the time to rethink how services are provided. For example Cook County Commissioner, Larry Suffredin, discussed eliminating the Township structure in Evanston. Makes sense to me. Why does Evanston need this duplicative government entity? If the City of Evanston can provide the same services to the people and families that need them at a lower cost – JUST DO IT!  As a community, we will have to reconsider our School budgets – both are forecasted to be in deficit over the upcoming years. Are there ways to deliver the same level of educational services in a more effective way and at a lower cost? I'm sure there are other issues to consider and more opportunities, it just requires a different mindset.

    The old way doesn't work anymore. Just because a service was delivered one way in the past isn't justification for the present, and we need to find the best way for the future.

     

      1. I, an oxymoron, i hope not !

        I guess living in South Evanston for 20+ years and raising 4 children has provided me insights into the workings of City of Evanston Government, District 65, and District 202. To say the least, there are SIGNIFICANT opportunities for improvement – and more money is NOT the answer. And i won't take time right now to discuss Cook County, the State of Illinois or the U.S. Federal government, and those respective elected officials. My hope and dream is that more people take notice and get involved.

  2. …or perhaps people want a

    …or perhaps people want a service that comes at a regular tax rate, instead of the behind the scenes gouging that is taking place. Evanston has ridiculously high tax rates and what is there to show for it besides high crime and streets with more potholes than average avenue in Baghdad. Illinois as a state has the same problem – high taxes and a lacking school system, costly toll roads, crime….but if you're a union worker or state employee, you have a ridiculous pension and ridiculous benefits. At least someone is benefiting from the ludicrous taxes.

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