Manager: State aid cuts would force police, fire layoffs

Wally Bobkiewicz

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.

Comments

Eliminate Evanston Township Assessor's Office

Real estate sales are down this year and so are tax revenues. So whether or not Springfield cuts money to Evanston we will feel the hit. I guess that huge income tax hike from Democrats wasn't good enough.

Now Wally B. is talking about cuts in parking enforcement, crossing guards, affordable and emergency housing, police, public works and fire. I am sure the government unions will hurl more personal attacks against Wally. It seemed to work last year. 

So far in this recession not one Evanston firefigher has been laid off or lost overtime pay or their annual pay raises. The Evanston City Council agreed last year to an out-of-court settlement with the Evanston Fire Union where Evanston would rehire three firefighters they just laid off and allow an arbitrator to decide whether Evanston could layoff firefighters in return for the Evanston Fire Union to drop its suit.

So good luck on laying off Evanston firefighters. Another lawsuit might be looming from our other city unions to get the same deal the Evanston Fire Union got.

How come there is no talk of eliminating the Evanston Township Assessor's office? It is a duplicative service that Cook County offers, and it's part-time director, Bonnie Wilson, has the gall and audacity to ask the Council to give her a pension. And why did the City Council last year INCREASE the Evanston Township Assessor's budget by 80 percent?

Until we get a City Council with business sense that will attack the severe and growing fiscal problems facing Evanston rather than trying to ban bags and sports bar with waitstaff wearing plaid skirts we will see more tax hikes.

Reduction of services

Why don't we first look at duplication of services before threatening to cut critical services. The city provides several services that are duplicated by either the state or county. Let's cut those. All the talk about the Township seems to have not been a theory either .... Seems like there are a lot of nonessential services that should be looked at before the essential ones.

The purpose of building codes

Wally thinks the building department and code enforcement is here to generate fees for the city.  Wally, its purpose is to protect public safety. Novel concept - if you don't understand basic good safety practices in your operations.  

About a year ago Wally stated he replaced most of the administrative adjunication judges with ones who would generate more revenue.  Another novel concept - let's not serve justice and give citizens fair hearings but let make certain the judges produce revenue. Interestingly a former council member was given one of the jobs.

The building department and code enforcement appear to generate many errors and don't appear to be working that well. Wally thinks citizens need to be targets for his new ideas - to generate revenue.

Frankly if he steps up enforcement -Wally better start looking closer at the property of some public officials, which appear to be not in compliance with the city property standards and codes.

How about give as much attention to Revenue as Expenses

The broad assumption that revenue will grow by only 2% without full vetting all the components leads me to believe that the Manager is more interested in cutting services than balancing the budget.

The Council would serve the public well in an in depth review of income items and spend as much time on economic development and generating income versus immediately moving to budget cuts.