City officials and aldermen are hoping residents will tune in or stop by the Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 to hear a presentation on the City’s budget for fiscal year 2019. At present, City officials are projecting a $3 million shortfall in the General Fund, the City’s main operating fund, and they are still seeking ways to pay the debt service on the bonds for the new Robert Crown Center and to build up reserves.

City financial officials and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz will be in room G300 or the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., to explain the issues and answer questions. Community members are encouraged to attend the meeting or watch it live online at cityofevanston.org/TV or on television on City Channel 16 (Comcast Channel 16 or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, selecting Evanston and Channel 16).

Residents can submit questions and comments to be addressed at the meeting by calling/texting 847-448-4311; emailing budgetinquiries@cityofevanston.org; tweeting @CityofEvanston2 using #EvBudget19; messaging the City of Evanston on Facebook; or completing the online form at cityofevanston.org/budget. Questions and comments can also be submitted in-person at the event and at community meeting locations.

The presentation will be streamed live, and several aldermen have scheduled ward meetings to coincide with the broadcast: So far, ward meetings have been set at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. (First Ward); Hill Education Center, 1500 Mc Daniel Ave. (Second Ward); Chandler-Newberger Center, 1028 Central St. (Sixth and Seventh wards); Presence St. Francis Hospital, 355 Ridge Ave. (Eighth Ward) and the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave. (Ninth Ward). All meetings begin at 7 p.m.

The combination of the General Fund shortfall, the Crown debt service and low reserves facing the City next year is likely to result in increases in taxes and fees or the implementation of new ones. As a home-rule entity, the City impose a home-rule sales tax in increments of .25%. Property taxes levied by the City account for about 20% of the total property tax bill. The two public school districts receive the lion’s share – about 68% of the total property tax bill.

The General Fund shortfall is due to projected increases in salaries for cost-of-living, health insurance and “non-personnel expenses,” such as contracts for computers and road salt, said City CFO/Treasurer Hitesh Desai.

This year the City Council authorized the issuance of $85 million in new bonds; of that amount, $50 million or more will go toward paying the cost of the new Robert Crown Center.

The cost of a new Crown Center, which began at about $30 million three years ago, mushroomed to $53 million with little comment and no objection from City Council.

The Crown bond issue will be in two parts, $25 million this year and up to $25 million next year, depending on how much is raised privately. The annual debt service on $1 million in bonds is $70,000. The City has placed a binding referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot, asking residents to approve an increase in the real estate transfer tax to help pay the cost of the Crown Center.

Because the City tend to build up and then spend reserves, 2019 appears to be designated a build-up year. Mr. Desai. said the City projects a balance of $13.8 million in the General Fund at year’s end. It is not clear how much the City would like to have in reserves by the end of FY2019. Organizations typically like to have three months’ worth of operating expenses in reserve.

Other funds within the City’s overall budget may have shortfalls, but the City has generally steered discussion of its budget to the General Fund, because that is where program and service cuts that affect nearly all residents are made.

Some of the expected revenue increases are listed below;

• Home rule sales tax increase of 0.25% – $1,500,000

• Food and Beverage tax at 1% – $175,000

• Transportation network tax (e.g., Uber and Lyft) increase to $0.40 – $300,000

• Hotel tax increase 0.5% – $115,000

• Wheel tax increase to $95 – $500,000

• Increase to boat rack and launch fees – $14,500

• Eliminate first-hour-free at City garages: $185,000

• Install parking meters along the lakefront and surface lots: $550,000

• Increase hourly parking deck fees and put in automatic escalation: $390,000

• Increase Sherman Avenue garage monthly permit fee: $148,500

• Increase parking meter hourly fee by $0.50/hour: $1,695,600

• Increase surface parking lot monthly permit fee: $38,880

• Eliminate free Sunday parking in meters and garages: $685,000

Sidebar: Budget Dates

Oct. 5: City Manager presents budget to City Council.

Oct. 5-25: Online budget simulation available for resident responses.

Oct.15: Budget Discussion

Oct. 22: Budget Discussion

Oct. 27: Truth in Taxation Public Hearing – FY 2019 Proposed Budget

Preliminary Tax Levy Estimate

Nov. 6: General Election (with real estate transfer tax referendum question)

Nov. 12: Budget Discussion (if needed)

Nov. 19: Adoption of budget and tax levy

Budget Dates

Oct. 5: City Manager presents budget to City Council.

Oct. 5-25: Online budget simulation available for resident responses.

Oct.15: Budget Discussion

Oct. 22: Budget Discussion

Oct. 27: Truth in Taxation Public Hearing – FY 2019 Proposed Budget

Preliminary Tax Levy Estimate

Nov. 6: General Election (with real estate transfer tax referendum question)

Nov. 12: Budget Discussion (if needed)

Nov. 19: Adoption of budget and tax levy