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Aldermen stick with job cut plan

Evanston aldermen Monday turned back efforts to restore some jobs targeted for elimination by the city manager.

An attempt to maintain for at least one additional year the job of Human Relations Director Paula Haynes and a proposal from Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, to keep the job of an employee at the Robert Crown Center failed when aldermen rejected on a 5-3 vote a proposed transfer of $500,000 in reserve funds from the water fund to the general fund that could have paid for those jobs.

The aldermen did approve a motion from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, to add a fundraising position for the Arts Council that advocates claim will be able to raise more than the cost of the job in corporate funding for arts programs.

Aldeman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said, "I'm not going to start second-guessing personnel decisions" of the city manager.

Water Department Director David Stonebeck said that without the reserve funds the city would have to issue revenue bonds sooner than otherwise required to fund needed improvements to the city's water mains.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said, "We've already been warned by some of the bond rating services that our rating is under review. If it slips, it will cost us a lot more money to carry our debt."

He added that transferring one-time reserve funds into the general fund to pay for ongoing operational expenses is "like taking a credit card to pay for your groceries" and is not a proper way to approach budgeting.

Ald. Rainey said, "If we're not allowed to challenge the city manager's budget, then what are we doing wasting all this time in budget hearings?"

She argued that the cuts backed by the council majority "are all being made in areas where people of less than modest means are going to be affected."

She said cuts that would hurt residents of richer parts of town — like branch libraries "on the north and east side" — were eliminated from consideration by the manager to win aldermanic support.

She also noted that the staff had still not delivered a memo from the city's bond counsel detailing the impact of a change in the city's debt rating that she requested six weeks ago.

Ald. Jean-Baptiste said other aldermen now were "genuflecting before the city manager after the branch libraries had conveniently been taken off the chopping block."

He noted that, despite its austerity measures, the budget does add several new jobs the city manager wants.

But Ald. Moran said the city has some new needs and sometimes that will lead to the creation of new positions.

The aldermen are required to adopt a final budget document by the end of the month. As it now stands the draft budget would increase the city's property tax levy by 6.5 percent, more than double last year's increase.

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