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Aldermen frustrated with township budget

Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to vote on an Evanston Township budget that will arrive in their packet with no recommendation from the council's Human Services Committee.

The committee this week voted against recommending approval of the budget after aldermen on the committee failed to get answers they found satisfactory to questions about the budget.

Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to vote on an Evanston Township budget that will arrive in their packet with no recommendation from the council's Human Services Committee.

The committee this week voted against recommending approval of the budget after aldermen on the committee failed to get answers they found satisfactory to questions about the budget.

Those questions focused on what Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, described as high adminstrative costs in running the township's general assistance program.

In addition, Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, objected to a proposed 15 percent pay hike for the deputy township assessor.

"In these times when we're laying off people at the city, I do not support that. Maybe the most anybody should get is 4 percent," Holmes said.

Grover complained that the township spends 37 percent of its budget on administrative expenses.

She said that's roughly twice what the Evanston Community Foundation, where she used to work, spent on administration, and at the foundation that included fundraising staff, a role not present in township government.

She asked whether the townshp had ever undergone an "operational audit" to determine whether it's being run as effeciently as possible.

Township Supervisor Patricia Vance said there hasn't ever been such an audit. She said that, aside from questions about its cost, "I don't have a problem otherwise" with having one done.

But she defended the township's current level of staffing. "We have the personnel we need at this time," Vance said.

Grover also questionned the township's decision in 2005 to extend its lease on its privately-owned office space from 2008 to 2013, and whether the township supervisor had the authority to sign the lease without getting approval of the aldermen, who also serve as township trustees.

A further extension of the lease could block efforts by aldermen to trim township costs by moving township offices back to the Civic Center.

Vance said it was her understanding that the lease only required her signature. A city attorney told aldermen that the corporation counsel's office is looking into that issue.

With the aldermen facing a June 30 deadline to approve a township budget, a motion to recommend the budget to the full council failed 4-1, with only Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, voting for it.

The motion to send the budget to the council floor without a recommendation was then approved unanimously.

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