The thaw that has yet to really begin outside contributes somewhat to a feeling of jogging in place inside Council chambers after another meeting that pushed major decisions into the future while keeping an eye on summer activities. There was some good news looking back, however, as the City collected more money than expected in 2013.
Regarding summer, the meeting began with an announcement from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz that Evanston has been awarded a $200,000 “Boat Access Area Development” grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The money will go toward improving boat docks and ramps in City lakefront parks, and is funded by marine fuel taxes and boat and canoe registrations fees. Evanston received $200,000 of the $715,000 total awarded statewide said Mr. Bobkiewicz.
The special events calendar was also approved, with the majority of events occurring over the summer in various Evanston parks. Highlights include the new Evanston Art and Big Fork Festival at Church and Sherman. The weekend of September 27 will be all the busier, as the Festival joins the Green Living Festival and Bike the Ridge that weekend. Residents who dislike crowds are advised to make travel plans; those who love living in a vibrant urban environment don’t dare to miss out.
Another highlight is the return of the Evanston Grand Prix downtown bicycle race Sunday, July 27. The race did not take place last year, and there is some doubt as to this year as well barring a lead sponsor. An all day event, the race drew large crowds in the past.
The remainder of the events remain largely unchanged. Summer cannot get here soon enough.
The good budgetary news is that the City took in about $2.4 million (or 2.76%) more revenue than budgeted in 2012, and spent just $178,000 (0.21%) more than expected. As a result, at year end there was a $2.2 million surplus in the General Fund. Council voted to transfer the surplus to debt service ($1M), fleet maintenance ($0.6M) and insurance ($0.5M).
Funds came from sources across the board, with most coming from real estate transfer taxes. Sales tax, income tax and permit fee collection also rose while property tax, utility tax and liquor tax collection all came in slightly under budget. The good news may extend into 2014 as the City budgeted about $2.875 in real estate transfer taxes in 2014 but collected $3.895 in 2013. The effect of increased revenue from sources other than property taxes is quite obvious.
Over the objection of Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, the City will be signing a grant agreement with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to inventory and record at the County level structures designated as landmarks that are outside historic districts. Ald. Rainey objected to using City funds, even grant money, to pay recording costs. She argued that homeowners should be responsible for recording fees, and that the issue has only come up a couple of times within the past ten years. Recording costs about $15 per deed.