Evanston aldermen this week made no changes when they approved introduction of property tax levies that will hike residents bills by 5 percent next year.

As reported earlier this week, Evanston tax bills have been rising at an average of twice the rate of inflation for more than a decade.

But the tax burden is growing even faster than average incomes. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the median household income in Illinois rose just 12 percent from 2000 through 2012, while Evanston’s property tax levy rose by 62 percent over the same time span.

Illinois’ median household income was $46,064 in 2000 and rose to $51,738 by 2012. Data for 2013 is not yet available.

While much of the proposed tax increase for next year is driven by a massive increase in library spending, the only comment about that Monday night came from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who said the library has been underfunded for years and it’s “wise for us to support the increase.”

She didn’t suggest any compensating cuts to other programs to adjust for what she saw as the library underfunding.

Top: A chart showing the growth in Evanston property tax levy since 2000, with the corresponding percentage changes in the consumer price index and the median household income of Illinois residents.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. When will politicians take notice?

    Taxpayers are not only being asked to pay more and more in taxes, but also fees are rising at a faster rate. The chart above shows not only are Evanston property taxes growing at a faster rate than income growth, but that taxes are growing at a faster rate than inflation. This is not sustainable, especially at a time when many in the private sector are required to save more of their disposable income for their own retirement. Nationally, you can see in the following chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank that real median family income is FLAT over the last 25 years. So how can politicians continue to ask taxpayers to pay more and more in taxes and fees when our real incomes are not growing? When will politicians take notice that many people are struggling?

    1. Politicians will take notice only when voters do

      The only way politicians will take notice is when we vote them out. 

      Here is what 6th Ward Alderman Mark Tendam put on his website in this year's election.

      "City wide, we cut spending where it made sense to do so, made investments in infrastructure and neighborhood revitalization projects, identified ways of increasing revenue without raising property taxes." 

      Property taxes increased during the first three years of Tendam's reign. Election year comes around and he and other aldermen find a way not to raise taxes. Now that the election is over it's back to the ole political chicanery. Tendam's opponent never said he would cut or not raise taxes. So there wasn't much of a choice. 

      But it's your choice, folks. There is no one to blame for the chronic increase in taxes, fees and fines but residents, especially those who don't vote or pay attention to the issues.

      1. Run Against Them
        Good point, Anonymous Al. But to vote them out, we need ordinary people who care about this issue to step up and run against their incumbent alderman. As I recall, most aldermen ran unopposed during the latest election cycle. Anonymous Al, how about throwing your hat into the ring?

    2. Over the last 4 years, real

      Over the last 4 years, real family income has dropped each year. It is easy to see why this is happening. 75 % all new jobs created over this time period are minimum wage jobs. The city and library want more taxes for their pet projects and the federal government wants you to lose your current health insurance so that they can make you sign up for their more expensive health insurance.

      Who can afford this? Is Wally drugging our city council and library board members?

      Is Wally going to get his $ 250k propaganda bus?



  2. City lacks understanding of economics, sociology

    Once again the city government does not seem to understand economics or sociology. They think they can keep raising taxes, giving to their favorite 'winners' businesses, proclaim they want more affordable housing, and help for the poor.

    While making the poor and (at least lower) middle-class worse off, homeowners are stuck unless they sell at a loss, but potential new home owners, potential renters, and certainly any observant NU grads will see though it and pick another place.

    Wilmette if their incomes are high enough or Skokie and many other places will compete for potential or actual Evanston residents. Thus making the burden on the poor and middle class even greater.

    Racial integration—less and less with taxes always rising. Income integration—that is a goal long out the window with the budgets going way back.

    1. Real estate taxes

      As someone currently trying without much success to sell a house in this city, I am acutely aware of the drag that high Evanston real estate taxes are having on potential buyers of my property.  More than one party has stated that the taxes were a negative.  Northwestern owns 47% of our city and pays no taxes!  Enough said!   

      1. Real estate myths

        The comment above perpetuates one of the enduring myths about Evanston.

        A report prepared by the Chamber of Commerce and other groups in 2005 found that tax-exempt land in Evanston totals 44.5 percent of the city's total land area.

        But that's not all university land.

        The approximate breakdown is this:

        • Northwestern University: 5.5%
        • Other not-for-profit and institutional uses: 5%
        • Streets and alleys 25%
        • Public open space 9%

        Anyone with any geographic sense at all could look at a map of the city and see that the claim that the university owns half the land here is totally bogus — but the myth endures.

        — Bill

        1. Land breakdown

          Thanks for the stats, Bill. Just curious if the NU numbers include ALL the buildings owned by NU and not just the campus? There are residences in town that NU owns. Do they pay tax on those? 

      2. Not NU; it’s the Council

        NU owns nowhere even remotely close to 47% of the land, not sure where people get such a ridiculous idea. 

        And if it were not for NU the city would be so very much worse off, that institution provides tons of jobs to locals, everything from maintenance workers to professors, that institution buys from and supports virtually every retail store and hotel in Evanston, and those commercial property taxes are assessed at double per value of residential.  Evanston retail would be like Wilmette if it were not for NU, sleepy, virtually nonexistent, and not paying the many millions upon millions of r.e. taxes, fees and charges every year.

        Time for people to get a clue.  Your taxes are high because the politicians you vote into office spend your money freely.  They increase your taxes by double the rate of inflation with virtually no discussion whatsoever.  They then turn around and debate and fight economic development that would bring further commercial and residential development into the city, thereby creating further burden upon your taxes.  The council is the one and only reason, not NU.

  3. If you check out the property

    If you check out the property tax bills for last year you will find the Evanston taxpayers supported their library at over twice he amount the average community in Cook County. After years of hearing what a top notch library we have, we have a mayor that is saying we have underfunded our library for years.

    Two years ago, the library became an independent unelected taxing body that is appointed by our mayor. Since then the library has gone out and hired a large amount of new staff that have unusual new job functions. They have started a number of new programs that appear to have little to do with the operation of a library.

    Some things needed to be addressed:

    Why does the mayor have sole responsibility for appointing the library board, especially a mayor who has a compulsive spend problem.

    Why does an unelected board have the power to tax us. Wasn't there something about "taxation without representation …….." being unconstitutional?

    Why do Evanston lemmings accept this? Is there something contained in the ever increasing water rates?

  4. NO need for over 5% tax increase – city has an option

    Some of us were told at the last council meeting the city can limited this increase this year to 1.5% using the revenues from permits.  What interesting if they do not use this revenue were will it go? A larger slush fund for Wally and the Mayor?

    To pay down the debt? more capital improvements not likely!

    What is the 10% water bill increase for more covering up of the water operation? Remember the city takes out $3 million dollars currently to use it to fund the general fund. so it is not being used for water operations.

    If they have this over an extra one million dollars they will no doubt waste it, on their pet projects, wait and see.

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