Evanston’s Financing for $90 million+ Robert Crown Project & Debt Costs

Evanston Robert Crown Center

The City of Evanston’s will have to maneuver its budget over the next 25 years to account for the $91.1 financed price tag for the new Robert Crown Center’s $53.3 million construction and almost $37.8 million debt service costs.

The City will fund the center’s $53.3 million in planning, construction and design costs primarily through proceeds of its municipal bonds ($50 million for the main facility, $1.875 million for the center’s new library branch and $1.09 million from a sewer bond). Financing will also come from private donations, currently at $12 million pledged or in hand, and a series of interfund transfers from other City departments.

Trickier is financing for debt service, in which the City pledged an unlimited raise on property tax for repayment. Interest and fees for the $53 million bonds allocated for the project are estimated at almost $38 million over the term of the issuance, according to City projections, making total debt repayment (interest + principal) at just under $91,000,000.

Evanston Robert Crown Center financing
Source: 2019 Adopted Budget, pg. 46

Evanston is balancing the project’s 2019 general obligation debt service ($1 million excluding Crown debt service for 2016-7 and for Crown library) through staff and service cuts. That debt service doubles next year, and more than triples for 2022 to 2043, according to the City’s debt service schedule. The City has not made clear its plan for ongoing repayment, though it is working to shore up its deficit.

This is Part 3 of our Robert Crown Center series. The next City meeting regarding the project is this Wednesday, February 13, 6pm at the Robert Crown center.

Part 4: RCCC Project Overview, Concerns

Part 2: Timetable of $18-$53 million project cost increases

Part 1: Quick Guide to Bonds & Debt

Public-Private Fundraising

In 2016 the City approved a fundraising campaign and helped to establish a private fundraising nonprofit, Friends of the Robert Crown Center, which has worked with the City and the City’s hired fundraising consultancy firm. This January, Friends announced it had reached $12 million in pledges and donations, nearing its $15 million goal, with $4.5 in hand. Offsetting that funding is the almost $750 thousand the City paid in fundraising consultant fees, with multiple service extensions.
Source Funding Cost
Total Raised
Pledged $7.5
In Hand $4.5 million
City-paid fundraising fees ($736,594)

The separation between of contributions has been murky between Friends and the City’s hired consultant, Community Counselling Services. In consideration of one extension in 2017, Ald. Fleming asked how much had been raised by CCS versus Friends, Then-assistant city manager Martin Lyons said it had been a joint effort, and had not been tracked that way. Fundraising revenues will be given from the FRCC as a donation to the City for the project. 

Bond Sales

Council approved the sale of $85 million of its general obligation (GO) bonds in June of 2018, in which it pledged an unlimited raise on property tax to repay the loan. More than 60 percent of the proceeds from the newly authorized bond sales are earmarked specifically for Robert Crown construction, with funding also coming from those allocated for other capital improvements.

Source Funding Cost
GO Bonds for RCCC construction
$39 million already issued
$11 million allocated for 2019 bond sale
Interest Repayment (over life of issuance) *($30,000,000)
Fiscal Agent Services (2017-2019) ($273,065)
Bond Issuance Costs (2017-2019) ($142,224)
GO Bonds for RCCC library branch construction
from $20M Capital Improvement allocation
Interest Repayment (over life of issuance) *($1,125,000)
Bond Issuance Costs (2017-2019) ($30,790)
Sewer Bond
for RCCC construction manager and guaranteed maximum price (GMP) fees
Interest Repayment (over life of issuance) *($630,000)

*City raw data projections

Funds from other Departments

The project is also financed by general obligation bond proceeds and funding from other City departments, which were secondarily replenished by other interfund transfers. 

Source (not exhaustive) Funding Cost
Parking Fund
RCCC construction manager and guaranteed maximum price (GMP) fees
Sewer Fund $1,000,000
Capital Improvement Fund (for RCC Library) $1,250,000
— Community Dev. Block Grant to Capital Fund ($615,000)
— Neighborhood Improvement Fund to Capital Fund ($100,000)
General Fund (for 2019 RCCC debt service – debt reduction) $1,000,000
General Fund (for 2019 debt service reduction) $1,141,042
— Library Fund to General Fund ($270,000)
— E911 Fund to General Fund ($60,000)
— Community Dev. Block Grant to General Fund ($10,344)

Budget Cuts & Tax Increases

The City projected almost $15 million in debt service expenses for 2019 (at least $1 million for 2019 Robert Crown debt service). To balance the budget’s $7.4 million deficit, the City announced a number of staff and service reductions, as well as increased property taxes and other fees.

Staff Reductions: The City’s elimination of 21.67 full-time equivalent positions included seven in the Police and Fire Departments (police commander, court liaison, video records specialist, four officer positions and four firefighter/paramedic positions) and five in Health and Human Services (human services advocate, public health educator, assistant director of public health and vital records clerk). The City’s two remaining victim advocate positions may be cut in June 2019. Other positions included the budget and finance manager, cultural arts coordinator and Parks and Recreation assistant director.

Increased Taxes & Fees: Though the City had said in Sept. 2018 that a property tax increase was not on the table, it nonetheless added 2% for 2019. Increased revenues will also be partially funded by raising fees and rates for the wheel tax, hourly parking, residential parking permits, expired meter tickets, garage and commuter parking, ride-hailing taxes (such as Uber and Lyft), and an end to free Sunday parking starting March 1. Special garbage pickups will also increase from $60 t0 $100.

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