Evanston releases expanded 2015 budget

Paige Leskin, City Editor

Evanston released Friday its proposal for the 2015 budget, which calls for an additional $5.5 million in funding compared with last year and no net increase in property taxes for residents.

The total 2015 budget is more than $260 million, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year’s budget, according to a budget message from city manager Wally Bobkiewicz. The budget, which lays out the city’s finances and community priorities for the upcoming year, focuses on a set list of goals, including infrastructure for streets and buildings, economic development and providing help for at-risk residents.

“The 2015 Proposed Budget brings additional emphasis to our work supporting Evanston residents in need through expanded Human Services efforts,” Bobkiewicz said in the message. “In addition, the 2015 Proposed Budget continues on City-wide efforts creating the most livable City for our residents.”

The resources put forward to meet those objectives are designed to reflect the desires of all members of the city community while balancing those wants with the resources actually available, Bobkiewicz said.

In order to offset various expenses and costs, the city plans to increase by 10 percent the rate it charges other cities for drinking water, as well as impose a tax on rental cars, which staff expect will bring about $70,000 for the city per year.

The budget sets room for the creation of a Human Services Fund, which would be devoted to providing funding for the Evanston Mental Health Board, Bobkiewicz said.

“We will provide access to resources that offer support and empower families,” he said in his message. “Services will be delivered by means of a comprehensive system of care, which emphasizes the most appropriate, least restrictive settings to promote the highest level of functioning.”

Bobkiewicz also laid out worries in the budget that both the city and residents had expressed for Evanston’s future, such as issues with quality of life, debt and police and firefighter pensions.

Because of the city’s public safety services, Evanston’s rate of serious crime in 2014 dropped 7.4 percent, Bobkiewicz said. He also highlighted the city’s success this year in economic development through the opening of more than 30 businesses.

“In 2015, Economic Development staff will continue to support these specific initiatives, but will focus significantly more on serving Evanston’s strong core of independent businesses,” he said in the message. “Specifically, the City’s Economic Development staff will continue to focus on the retention and expansion of existing businesses, the creation of new jobs for all skill levels, growth and diversification of tax revenue, and support of business district revitalization.”

The budget will formally be presented to City Council on Oct. 20, Bobkiewicz said in an email to Evanston media. A public hearing will be held Oct. 25.

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