The 2024 Evanston city budget that the full City Council will discuss for the first time Monday night shows city staffing surging to levels not seen in nearly two decades.
The new staff count is not quite the highest seen since the turn of the century, though — because budgets before 2022 did not include the mayor and nine council members in the employee count.
After adjusting for that, the proposed employee count for 2024 is just one shy of the century’s peak reached in 2001.
U.S. Census says the city’s population grew just over 5% between 2000 and 2020, with almost all of that increase coming in the last decade — when city staffing levels were considerably lower than they are today.
The collapse of the housing market in 2007 led to a dramatic decline in city revenue — and resulted in staffing cuts that lasted until the housing market started to recover in 2013.
The pandemic led to renewed constraints on staff levels in 2020 and 2021 — but with the surge of federal pandemic aid adding $43 million to the city budget, and a new, more aggressively-progressive city council in office since May 2021, the city has been on a hiring tear ever since.
But, with the pandemic aid now almost completely committed, the city may face renewed spending constraints and the need to cut staff again in the 2025 budget — just as City Council members head into another election season.
Looking more closely at the last nine years, since 2016, the city has cut staff in the Police Department but increased staff in every other unit.
If the 2024 budget is adopted as proposed, the Health and Human Services Department staff with be 51% larger than it was in 2016. The library’s staff will be 21% larger and the Public Works and Community Development departments will each have grown by 15%.
The total proposed city budget for 2024 calls for spending $449 million, an increase of nearly $52 million from this year’s budget.
The City Council special meeting to discuss the budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center.