Manager: State aid cuts would force police, fire layoffs
Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told aldermen Monday that if the state goes through with cuts in aid to cities being discussed in Springfield the city will have to reduce police and fire services.
Bobkiewicz offered that assessment after reviewing a lengthy list of possible changes to city operations that touched essentially every other city program except public safety.
The manager said the growing gap between expenses and revenue means the city will have to cut $1.4 million in general fund spending in 2012 and $3.2 million in 2013.
He says the city also needs to fund an additional $2 million a year in capital projects from operating funds to reduce its reliance on borrowing.
He said that, unless the state makes the city's budget crisis worse, he believes the fire and police departments can be spared from cuts.
"The police department has been very effective," Bobkiewicz said, "I'm not looking at particular changes there, but have asked the chief to continue to look for efficiencies."
And he said it's the same story at the Fire Department.
The manager says a budget review over the next several months will look at pay and benefits for all job classifications, fees and charges for all services and whether the city can increase revenue by more effectively enforcing city codes.
He said he plans to explore whether the city should get out of the business of managing special events and whether it could increase revenue from events at city facilities by loosening current restrictions on alcohol sales there.
He said the city needs to completely re-examine the costs and fees associated with parking enforcement.
And said the cost of the crossing guard program needs to be reduced, which led Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, to suggest using parent volunteers as guards.
Bobkiewicz said he wants to re-evaluate affordable housing and emergency housing assistance programs in the Community and Economic Development Department.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested also reviewing the taxes and fees the city imposes to support affordable housing to see what impact those may be having on development activity in the city.
He said he's not considering eliminating environmental health -- primarily food safety -- programs in the Health Department, but says the city may need to cut back on its community health initiatives.
He said the city needs to look at "additional efficiencies" in the Public Works Department.
And he said the city needs to "look at every recreation program to see whether it makes sense to continue."
"I don't think we need to be everything to everyone, especially when there are other service providers available," Bobkiewicz added.
He said some of groups that use the Noyes Cultural Arts Center aer already talking to the city about the possibility of purchasing the building.
And he said the Evanston Arts Center is interested in vacating the lakefront building it leases from the city.
He also suggested that there "are higher and greater uses" for the Chandler-Newberger Community Center, given its location near the CTA and Metra lines.
Bobkiewicz said he's had meetings with city workers about the changes, including one Monday morning with 40 employees.
"They're very frustrated and angry," the manager said. "They're seeing the call for cuts as a reflection on them. They want to work smart and are very forthright."
The manager said he plans to next update the council on the budget situation at a meeting Aug. 8 and will follow that with a series of community meetings through September, leading up to presentation of the proposed 2012 budget to the City Council in early October.