Council to consider increasing rooming fee to fill budget’s gap

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Evanston City Council will discuss Ald. Gene Feldman’s proposal for an increase in rooming fees at tonight’s meeting.

The increase, which was introduced by Feldman (9th) as an amendment to the balanced budget proposal for next year, would double annual rooming fees and bring in $188,000 more in revenue, he said. The new fees would be $332 for the first four residents in a building and $52 for each additional resident.

The rate increase would apply to Northwestern’s dorms and Greek houses. Some NU officials have said they are concerned the increases would be a financial burden on fraternities and sororities, since their residents would have to cover the increases themselves.

Rooming fees were last increased in 2000. The following year sororities paid the city $31,880, while fraternities paid $17,990. NU paid $66,000 in rooming fees for its dorms.

But Feldman said the fee, which would cost about $4 per resident each month, is reasonable.

“What should I be concerned about?” Feldman said. “Students lose that in their automobile when they try to sit down and it falls out of their pocket.”

The main concern Feldman has is the cost of property inspection, he said.

“It costs as much money as (we) take in,” he said. “If left the way it is, (the city) would be losing money.”

The fee increase also would apply to privately held rooming houses that are owned by out-of-towners — which often are not well maintained, according to Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th).

“It costs the city lots in maintenance,” he said. “(And) it’s just a lot of time.”

Currently, employees in the Community Development Department inspect properties. If a property is cited for a violation, officials must reinspect it to ensure that its owner is complying with standards and making progress, Bernstein said.

“They don’t have enough inspectors,” he said. “That’s part of the problem. (So) the rest of the city goes uninspected for too long.”

Other issues on tonight’s agenda include delaying scheduled sewer rate increases and increasing the city’s tax for monthly parking.

The council also is slated to approve several large bids for the next phase of the long-term sewer renovation project, which is the source of the annual rate hikes for customers.