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City payroll not always so full

The number of employees on Evanston’s city payroll has varied substantially over the last four decades.

City staff over time 

As aldermen, faced with a pension funding crisis, struggle to determine whether the community can get by with fewer city workers, a look at employee levels over the years may shed some light on their options.

In 1991, Chamber of Commerce members concerned about rising city budgets published a booklet they called "The Evanston DIET." The DIET, an acronym for Defeat the Increase in Evanston Taxes, reported that in its 1972-73 fiscal year the city got by with 767 employees.

By 1991 the city workforce had increased 11 percent, to 854 full-time-equivalent employees, even though the city’s population had declined by 9 percent
 
The chamber complained that when comparing functions performed by all three communities, Evanston had 150 to 200 more workers than similar suburbs like Arlington Heights or Skokie.

(To compare comparable functions, library and parks employees must be excluded from the Evanston employee count, because in Skokie and Arlington Heights those services are performed by separate taxing districts.)

By a few years after the chamber report, the city workforce had been cut a bit —  to 822 in fiscal year 1997-98, but it has remained above that level ever since, peaking in the 2006-07 fiscal year at 884.

For the comparable functions performed by all three municipalities these days, Evanston has nearly 700 full-time-equivalent employees, compared to about 420 in Arlington Heights and 480 in Skokie. That’s a difference averaging more than 50 percent — a much bigger spread than in 1991.

(Copies of The DIET are available at the Evanston Public Library. It can also be downloaded as a 4.5MB .pdf file here.)

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