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Budget ideas: We’ve got a wall full!

Evanston residents Tuesday offered dozens of ideas for trimming the $8 million gap in next year’s city budget.

The just over two dozen people participating in the third of four budget workshop sessions filled a wall at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center with suggestions.

Here’s a sampling of the ideas for cuts.

Public Works

  • Layoff city sanitation crews and turn over garbage hauling to a private contactor. That’s an idea city officials have estimated could save $1 million a year.
  • Stop picking up grass clippings.
  • Reduce the frequency of recycling pickups from once a week to every other week, now that the city is using big recycling carts rather than much smaller recycling bins.
  • Have regular garbage routes handle special pickups, and bar-code trash cans to make it easier for drivers to track special pickup charges.

Libraries

  • Close the branch libraries.

Fire Department

  • Close a fire station or eliminate one engine company.

Community Development

  • Combine the building unit that inspects new construction work and the property standards unit that expects existing rental units.
  • Reduce staff to match the decine in development activity.

City-wide

  • Renegotiate city labor contracts and reduce pay for new hires.
  • Dismiss employees who’ve been rated the least effective in recent performance reviews.
  • Defer merit pay increases.
  • Reduce the employer portion of pension contributions, or eliminate pensions for new hires.
  • Reduce the employer portion of health premiums.
  • Eliminate health insurance coverage for aldermen.

One person suggested putting off the problem by refinancing the city’s debt obligations to extend their term and reduce current payments.

And others made suggestions they figured would generate new revenue:

  • Encourage new businesses that need a lot of water to locate here, (presumably to increase water department revenue).
  • Build a marina.
  • Build a lakefront marina.
  • Rent out space in the Civic Center.
  • Expand fairs and festivals to be like the Spiletto festival in Charleston, S.C.
  • Create a downtown performing arts center.
  • Rent the lakefront arts center for weddings and other special events.
  • Decriminalize marijuana and raise funds by issuing city tickets for small violations.
  • Provide snow removal service for retail districts, in the expectation it would increase sales tax revenue.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d have staff working to try to quantify the savings and other impacts of various ideas in time for the next workshop session at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, at the Civic Center.

And he said he’s planning a televised marathon of the budget workshop sessions for the weekend of Dec. 4 through 6 on the city’s cable channel 16, culiminating in a live call-in show to discuss budget issues.

The City Council is to receive a report on the workshop results at a special meeting on Dec. 7.

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