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At the Nov. 24 City Council meeting, aldermen unanimously approved the $225.4 million budget for next year. Over the eight weeks of talk and fine-tuning, a few internal changes were made, but the budget was approved for the most part as originally presented in October. Here are 10 highlights:
• Revenues from basic sales taxes, home rule sales taxes, state income tax (remittance) and athletic contest taxes are all projected to come in higher in 2015; the aggregate projected increase in tax revenues – except the property tax – is projected at $1.7 million.
• The City’s portion of the property tax will increase by 1.2%. The City takes about 20% of the overall tax bill. City staff provided the following information about how the proposed increase will affect the tax bill: The increase in taxes on a property with a value of $300,000 would be $20; the increase on property with a value of $600,000 would be $39; and the increase on a property with a value of $900,000 would be $59.
• The water rate will increase by 10% effective Jan. 1. Although the budget was approved unanimously, only five aldermen voted “yes” on the proposal to increase water rates.
• This is the third year that the Library Fund appears as a separate budget item. In the first year, the Library trustees decided not to request an increase in the levy. The Library Board’s FY 2015 levy represents an increase of $718,000 over last year.
• The car-rental tax will be increased to 3% of the rental price of the vehicle, up from 1%.
• All departments except the police and fire/life safety were requested to decrease their expenditures by 3% for the 2015 budget. There are no layoffs, and 5.8 full-time-equivalent positions have been added. Over the past year, six additional FTE positions were added, though they were not in the FY2014 budget.
• The budget anticipates $13,724,829 in expenditures for debt service. To help whittle down debt-service costs, the City has been paying for smaller capital projects from the General Fund rather than issuing GO bonds.
• The City used the 2014 actuarial study prepared by Tepfer Consulting group of Northbrook as a basis for recommending the funding amounts for the police and the firefighters pension funds: $6,214,928 to the firefighters pension fund and $8,705,207 to the police officers pension fund. In the aggregate, those amounts are $4.3 million above the minimum contribution required by the State of Illinois, according to a budget memo.
• The Health and Human Services Department, abolished several years ago by City Council, has been resurrected. It will accommodate the present Health Department and the administration of General Assistance funds. The City also created two new budget funds: a Human Services Fund to cover all the activities involving the City’s Mental Health Board and a General Assistance (GA) Fund, to cover the administration of GA allocations since the City took over the duties of the now-defunct Evanston Township government.
• Proposed capital projects for fiscal year 2015 include improvements to facilities, parks, sewers, streets, water mains and parking areas. The total capital improvement package is $43.6 million.