Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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City Council discusses budget priorities, introduces bonds for capital improvements

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Isaiah Steinberg/The Daily Northwestern
Five of nine councilmembers said they preferred increasing revenue over reducing expenses to remedy budget shortfalls, Budget Manager Clayton Black said.

Evanston’s elected officials have been reluctant to adopt significant property tax increases or small revenue boosters despite the need to increase revenue, Budget Manager Clayton Black said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Throughout February, city staff conducted one-on-one meetings with councilmembers to gauge their priorities for the fiscal year 2025 budget, Black said. To align staff and council priorities, Black presented findings from these meetings. He said he only included comments mentioned by at least three council members in his presentation.

“While we’d love to be here tonight to report that we’ve developed a nice blueprint to develop a perfect budget that the entire city council agrees with, that’s unfortunately not the case,” Black said. “And it further emphasizes the challenges we face as part of the upcoming budget season.”

Staff will present a proposed budget to City Council later this year. The 2024 fiscal year budget was introduced in October and approved in December.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the council would “have to make some tough calls” regarding the budget.

“I think the question is not if, but when,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ll have to raise our property tax levy.”

Despite hesitancy to increase taxes, five of nine councilmembers said they preferred increasing revenue over reducing expenses to remedy budget shortfalls, Black said. Two councilmembers preferred reducing expenses, and two preferred a mixed response, he added.

There was no consensus among councilmembers about a property tax levy, Black said. He added that if there was a property tax increase, councilmembers wanted to tie it to a specific expense, such as pensions, public parks or the new community responder program. He added that multiple councilmembers said the city should review fees that have not changed in 10 or more years.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) advocated for cost-saving efficiencies and stricter budget adherence to increase revenue.

“I think we want to look at things like reduction in the reliance on consultants, which cost us an exorbitant amount of money,” she said.

Black also said councilmembers were concerned about reliance on one-time revenue sources, such as stadium permits or building sales.

“There are tough choices coming,” Mayor Daniel Biss said. “What I hope we don’t do is fail to make any of those tough choices and create a bigger problem down the road to the council making the 2026, (2027) budgets and beyond.”

In a 6-1 vote, City Council also introduced an ordinance issuing up to $35.5 million in bonds to finance projects conducted between 2022 and 2024 in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. 

The new bonds would be the first issued since 2021 and would fund Oakton Street corridor traffic improvements and renovations for the animal shelter and ecology center. The largest portion would fund water main replacement.

Kelly was the sole vote against introducing the bonds. She said the city should consider using existing taxpayer money to fund the improvements instead.

Councilmembers will vote to approve the bonds at its next meeting on May 28.

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