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Evanston City Council approves the 2022 budget, debates ARPA and tax levies

Daily file photo of Nick Francis

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) on the City Council. Burns voted against Evanston’s fiscal year 2022 budget, which was passed 5-3 on Monday.

The city council voted 5 to 3 Monday night to approve Evanston’s fiscal year 2022 budget.

The budget envisages total spending of around $ 360 million, more than $ 60 million more than last year. It will raise funds over the original proposal for Evanston’s General Fund, the town’s basic operational fund, as well as for the Robert Crown Construction Fund and initiatives to fund urban water supplies, waste disposal and equipment replacement. Evanston’s property taxes will not increase this year.

Some council members raised concerns that money from the $ 43 million Evanston will receive under the American Rescue Plan Act will be earmarked for police and fire service pension funds. ARPA funding is a one-time source of funding, so it will not be available next year.

During the debate on the proposed budget, Ald said. Clare Kelly (1st) requested an amendment that would transfer all of ARPA funding to Evanston’s General Fund, but the request failed.

Councilors and parishioners have debated hotly where ARPA funds should be allocated. About 150 students from Evanston Township High School dropped out in late October. Pressure on the city council to use these funds for the implementation of the climate protection and resilience plan. City officials have also argued that part of the funds will go to. should go new city positions, and the Council followed suit withheld COVID-19 response staff with ARPA funding earlier this month.

Kelly went to the vote, saying she would look into more ways to move ARPA funding into the General Fund. Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the council needed to hold a lengthy, separate discussion on ARPA funding before voting on the budget. However, when it became clear that delaying the vote could leave town in January without a major source of funding, he voted to approve the budget.

“It is our responsibility to taxpayers,” Nieuwsma said of his vote. “In the past 10 years, I’ve never sat on the city council and watched them fail the budget. I definitely don’t want to start. “

The budget also adds several new posts within the city government, including an environmental health inspector to enforce the Leaf blower regulationwhich restricts the seasons and hours that residents can use leaf blowers.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) voted against the proposed budget alongside Kelly and Ald. Devon Reid (8th).

Burns criticized the budget for allocating funds to the same departments as in previous years. He said his working group was on the Public Safety Redesign Committee is considering the creation of a new city council.

He said he wished the council had updated its common goals to leave room for initiatives like this new division. The committee was originally formed to analyze the Evanston Police Department’s relationship with the city and provide community-informed recommendations for the 2022 budget process.

“I have a firm hold on my vote because of the specific decisions we have made about the positions we will fill,” said Burns. “We cannot get this income back. These people will be with us for a long time. “

Councilors also considered adding between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000 to the budget for road security on Custer Avenue, a change proposed by Reid. The measure failed with 6-2 votes.

Reid said he introduced the measure into the debate following requests from voters.

“(I) mainly had a number of parents in the area who were concerned about their children being hit by a car that was moving too fast,” Reid said. “If we can do something as small as restricting the area … and have a street diet (to encourage people to drive the speed limit), I think it’s pretty little hassle.”

The council also voted on other ordinances, including the City Tax Levy, the general assistance tax, the library tax levy and several special service tax levies. A tax levy is a cap on how much future property tax revenue the city will spend on services in certain areas in the future – a number that is theoretically unaffected by differences between projected and actual tax revenues.

The City Tax Levy, which passed 5-3, provides approximately $ 34 million in Evanston property taxes to pay obligations including police and fire department pensions, a 1.45% increase over the 2020 library tax levy and several special service areas for tax levies were decided unanimously.

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