During a meeting that lasted past midnight, Evanston aldermen Monday signaled general support for a revised 2019 city budget that relies more on tax and fee hikes and less on spending cuts and layoffs than the plan originally proposed by the city manager last month.

To close a nearly $7.5 million budget gap, the new plan from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz calls for $4.8 million in new taxes and fees, up 45 percent from his original proposal. And it proposes $2.8 million in spending cuts, down 35 percent from the original plan.


Wally Bobkiewicz.

The original budget proposal would have reduced city full-time-equivalent staffing from 807 this year to 776 next year.

The revised plan adds back 16 positions, plus two completely new jobs for parking enforcement officers, for an approximate total FTE staff level of 794 next year. But four police and four fire jobs would be held vacant.

Major revenue increases in the revised plan include:

  • $820,000 from a 2 percent increase in the property tax levy.
  • $700,000 from the real estate transfer tax increase approved by voters last week.
  • $400,000 more ticket revenue from adding two parking enforcement officers.
  • $400,000 more ambulance fee revenue from increased billing to insurance companies.
  • $280,000 from increasing the transportation network tax from $0.20 to $0.45 per ride.

Big expense additions include:

  • $713,000 to keep Station 4 open and add back five firefighter jobs..
  • $213,000 to fill two Health Department positions that had been scheduled for elimination.
  • $180,000 to hire two new parking enforcement officers.
  • $100,000 to reduce what had been originally proposed as a $250,000 cut to mental health grant funding..
  • $98,000 to restore one police officer position.

Some aldermen suggested additional changes to the budget.

Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she’d like to restore the $150,000 still being cut from mental health grants.

Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, suggested rasing parking fees rather than increasing the number of parking enforcement officers.

Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward; Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, all said they’d like to tax private bus services like the one that transports Northwestern University students around town.

Fiske also suggested finding a substitute for the washed-out dog beach in hopes of capturing as much as $90,000 in lost revenue from dog owners.

The budget debate is scheduled to resume on Monday, Nov. 19, with final adoption of the budget possible either that night or on the following Monday, Nov. 26.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Reduce Salaries?

    Couldn’t they keep the positions but reduce the salaries? If they reduced a few salaries from $100k to even $80k, it would be a huge cost savings. I’m not a huge fan of having my property taxes increase so someone can have such a high salary…

    1. possible answers

      First, there is the union contract that would have to be changed. A tough job.

      Second, I don’t begrudge a 20+ (or whatever) fire fighter a large salary. All those years of eating smoke and treating the sick and injured….

  2. Only those who enjoy being fooled expected different

    From the start people who watch government knew they would throw out a lot of ideas how to cut/reform the finances but then find all ‘impossible to do.’ Whether Fire Station 4 is needed, it stood little chance of being cut–the Council knew that and that the eventual saving it would make voters think they had again rescued safety.  The same goes for all programs—no matter how much duplication [or lack of need] someone willl say “you  can’t cut MY program [i.e. my fiefdom, my budget, my power].  Then the Counciil says “we tried and you said NO—so we are forced to raise taxes and fees” but we keep our projects [and voters].  All the profferiing of ways to cut the budget was just smoke and mirrors with the hope the voters would not see through it—and then they could raises taxes and expand their pet projects.  The “Emperor has no clothes.”

    1. You have to pay for what you want

      Since all the conflicting groups had their own ideas of priorities, the money to support all has to come from somewhere. No one seemed eager to give up anything. And their definitions of “basic needed” services varied widely. Bottom line – to maintain Evanston with all its parts takes $$$..

  3. Re: fake offers to cut
    And in the process lost some long time and qualified employees who were told they were going to be cut and we’re afraid to “wait and see” with the prospect of starting 2019 with no job. Damn shame.

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