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Budgetary matters took up a small portion of the June 21 City Council meeting, as aldermen received a first-quarter budget report and approved a capital improvement program for the present fiscal year, a budget calendar for fiscal year 2011-12 and new dates for fiscal years, beginning in 2012.

First Quarter Report

As of June 1, the end of the first quarter of the current fiscal year, the City’s revenues and expenditures were for the most part on track for meeting budget allocations, said Finance Division Director Steve Drazner. Revenues in the General Fund, the City’s main operating fund, are running a little ahead of expenses, he said.

Real estate transfer taxes at this point are much higher than projected and could exceed projections by $400,000-$500,000, he said. Building-permit fees are also higher than expected and could exceed $1.5 million for the year – about $1 million more than budgeted.

Reimbursements by the state are at about a four-month lag, Mr. Drazner said, but he added that he expects these remittances to be made in the anticipated amounts. On the expenditure side, seasonal expenditures – such as for summer workers – will not show up this quarter, keeping expenses down. About $5 million has been transferred from the insurance fund to another “holding” fund, in anticipation of future legal claims, he said.

Capital Improvement Program

The City Council approved a $33 million capital improvement program (CIP) for the current fiscal year. It includes sewer repairs, installation of water mains, repairs to the Civic Center roof and the roof of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center gym.

The larger picture is the City’s total amount of outstanding debt. At present the City has a total of $278 million in debt, about 9.5 percent of its equalized assessed valuation (EAV), according to information presented by Administrative Services Director Joellen Earl. About $174 million of that is in general obligation (GO) bonds, which the taxpayers must repay.

Of the other $104 million, $101 million is “unabated debt,” that is debt that must be repaid through property taxes, she said. This amount does not included the unfunded liability on the police and firefighters pension funds.

At present the City has a policy that the City’s “unabated debt” should not exceed $90 million. The City’s unabated debt is now $101 million, about $11 million over the policy limit, Ms. Earl said. She also said the ratio of that debt to the EAV is only about 3 percent. She suggested that the Council discuss the policy and perhaps change it from an absolute number – the $90 million – to a percentage.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said since Evanston is a home-rule City, “I think it’s very important for us to have a policy of how much we can spend.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “The bottom line is we have too much debt, so if you want to make the difficult decision to increase that debt, you need to understand the impact.”

Calendars

City Council approved a budget calendar for this year that would kick off in September and have citizen workshops, Council workshops and public hearings completed by the end of December.

This would be done in anticipation of having the City’s fiscal year end on Dec. 31, the same time as the calendar year, beginning with fiscal year 2012 – a measure that the aldermen also approved.

The next fiscal year, 2011 would essentially be a 10-month years, said Mr. Bobkiewicz, who proposed the change. Calendar year 2012 and fiscal year 2012 would each begin on Jan. 1 and end on Dec. 31.