The Evanston City Council voted Monday night to officially support two Illinois bills — one that introduces a tax on all calls to 9-1-1 and one that extends the temporary Illinois income tax hike.
The votes passed 7-2 and 6-3 respectively, with a few alderman voicing concerns that the Illinois state legislators could not be trusted to send the tax revenue to Evanston and that it is too early or inappropriate for the council to vote on supporting the bills.
“When we used to use our landlines for most of our phone calls, each one of those calls were taxed, and those taxes to came back to the City of Evanston to support our 911 services,” said Ald. Jane Grover (7th Ward). “What’s happened is we, like everyone else, are relying more and more on our cell phones, but there’s not an equivalent charge on our cell phone bills so we’ve lost that revenue.”
Grover said that the proposed state-level tax will be administered on all calls, landline and cellular and will redistribute the revenue back to the cities based on their usage.
However, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th Ward) voted against supporting the bill because he said for previous taxes the state has not followed through with their promise to return revenues.
“When the state collects a tax for anything, they can do whatever they want with it, they don’t have to give it back to us,” said Wilson. “I fear like this looks like this is us giving the state license to impose a tax as opposed to us having control over that. I don’t trust that the money’s going to end up here.”
But, the 9-1-1 lobby is strong enough, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th Ward) said, that Evanston does not have to worry about the revenues being diverted away from the city’s 9-1-1 services.
On the second vote to support extending the temporary state income tax hike however, Rainey was one of the three dissenting alderman, including Wilson and Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward).
“In some cases when we pass recommendations like this, we forget those it affects directly,” said Rainey, citing the income tax’s threshold at taking effect for those who make above about $20,000 a year. “Sometimes it’s a vicious cycle: you tax the very people who need the services that the tax is going to provide for.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she supports the extending the state income tax hike because if it does not pass, the city would lose two people from their Health Department.
Tisdahl said the council would continue to vote on whether or not it supports the bills as written drafts of the legislature become available.
At the beginning of the city council meeting, Deputy Chief of Police Joseph Wazny also gave a report on how the Evanston Animal Shelter is transitioning after the city voted on April 8 to end its partnership with the volunteer group Community Animal Rescue Effort (CARE).
Wazny said the shelter has had sufficient volunteer help throughout the transition, mostly from former CARE volunteers.
“It’s been going really well,” said Alisa Kaplan, a long-term volunteer at the shelter. “It’s just a group of us who have been involved for awhile with a good mix of new and existing volunteers.”
The shelter has already held two publicity events since CARE’s departure and will be having adoption events on May 10 and May 18, according to Wazny.
Northwestern students participating in NU Gives Back over the past weekend also helped the shelter transition by planting and gardening at the shelter and by replacing old brick mortar, Wazny said.
“The transition has been hard, but I think it’s gone as smoothly as it can,” said Fiske. “The volunteers have been great and the students from Northwestern have been wonderful, so thanks to everyone who’s spending their time at the shelter.”