Council approves 2013 budget
Updated: November 27, 2012 6:28PM
The City Council unanimously approved a $247 million fiscal year budget Monday night that calls for no increase in property taxes and relies on modest staff reductions, and little revenue changes, as officials continue to watch conditions affecting future budgets.
“We’re going to provide quality services to our residents within our means,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Tuesday.
During the budget proceedings, Bobkiewicz stressed the need to watch the volatile fiscal situation at the state level and the possibility of cutbacks coming down to affect the city.
For now, “We’re not going to spend more money than we take in while continuing to maintain high quality services,” he said.
Aldermen didn’t require discussion before the vote, having put most of the pieces in place at a budget workshop session on Nov. 15.
Some of the changes include:
• Allocation of some $60,000 in funds to go toward the installation of four security cameras near Evanston Township High School, as well as the data connections necessary to send signals to the police department.
Along with the cameras, aldermen directed staff to return to the City Council in January with a funding plan for additional lighting around the high school, 1600 Dodge Ave.
• Directed staff to return to the City Council next month or in January with specifics of a new program to curtail the use of asphalt patches on sidewalks, offering different options to residents who participate in the city’s 50/50 sidewalk program.
Council members, all of whom are up for election next April, opted not to go with other increases or any deep cutbacks. There is no change in the parking meter rates, as incorrectly noted by the Review in an earlier report of the council’s budget actions.
Council members reduced proposed recreation fees by $150,000, responding to Alderman Don Wilson’s concern about the cost of some programs for Evanston residents.
In committee discussion before the council meeting, aldermen debated a proposed 3 percent water rate increase, which is included in the budget. However, officials said the increase won’t go into effect until July of next year, with revenues produced during last summer’s drought tiding the city over until then.
The proposed increase is the third in a line of water rate hikes, starting with a 10 percent hike in January 2010.
Officials say revenue generated by the increase will go back into improving the water system, which includes replacing nearly century-old mains in some neighborhoods.
Some homeowners repeatedly went without water last summer after main failures along Central Street.
Under the proposal, the annual water bill for the average single family home will increase by $5.39 to $191.58.
Nevertheless, some aldermen said they hear about the high cost of water usage from constituents.
“One of the biggest complaints I hear is the water bill,” 5th Ward Alderman Delores Holmes said. She and other aldermen said residents don’t separate the increases on the water bill, which also includes the sewer rate charge and other uses.
“There are four other things on the water bill and the water bill gets blamed for it all,’’ she said.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Evanston water rates are among the lowest in Illinois.
He acknowledged that officials are looking at other ways to present the information on water bills so residents have a clearer understanding.~.