Activists raise concern about ‘morphing’ hearing into action on the City’s $400 Million budget

By Bob Seidenberg
An Evanston activist group today raised concern that the city is planning to follow up a Truth in Taxation hearing on the budget later today, with a Special City Council meeting where the city’s $400 million fiscal year 2023 budget could be introduced, speeding up its approval.
Members of the Community Alliance for Better Government (CABG0 sent out an email today, Nov. 7, alerting members.
The grassroots organization had released a statement yesterday in advance of the hearing, calling for a fuller public hearing process on the budget, which sets out the city’s spending priorities for the next year.
The process has “morphed,” charged Lesley Williams, CABG President, in the email that went out to CABG members and others.
“We have not yet had the promised 2nd public hearing,” Williams wrote. “Clearly there won’t be any modifications based on resident testimony.”
In a letter to the City Council, Mayor and City Manager Nov. 6, the group expressed concern that the Truth in Taxation hearing “be a true hearing, with the public allowed to engage fully in questions and answers with the city staff and city council.”
Commented Williams in the group’s statement today:
“The Truth in Taxation hearing seems like an empty exercise if the budget is introduced a few minutes later.”

City Manager Luke Stowe and Hitesh Desai, the city’s Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer, were asked about the group’s concerns.
Desai said he is working with the City Manager’s office to find out the options available to the City Council.
In the city’s budget calendar released at the start of the process, officials projected Nov. 23 as the date for adoption.
The proposed budget now before the Council contains a number of significant changes from the document released at the start of the process.
In a memo to the Council, Desai observed that city staff has received feedback on the budget through five ward meetings (representing all nine wards), as well as two budget town hall meetings held in Spanish and English. Staff has also responded to questions received through the online budget survey and the email address,” he said.
Staff has heard feedback from the Council on several occasions too, he said, “and has revised the budget based on that feedback”
As a result, he said over $2.4 million in changes have been made, he said.
The changes include dropping a proposed 4% property tax that was projected to generate $2.28 million in revenue.
The Special Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., today at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.
To watch, community members may join Zoom. The meeting ID and passcode can be found on the agenda for the meeting under the Government tab on the city’s website,
The meeting can also be watched online at 16 or on Cable Channel 16.

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