Evanston aldermen will get the final report from the community budget workshops tonight.

And if they had hopes the citizens might come up with ways to close the projected $8 million gap in the $90 million general fund budget without resorting to layoffs — well, that just didn’t happen.

The top recommendations from the workshops that would not involve layoffs and could be accomplished within a year save well under $1 million.

Those are implementing the plan developed by staff to restructure the city’s waste collection and recycling system, with a projected savings of about $500,000 a year, and a proposal to move Evanston Township offices to the Civic Center, which might save about $100,000 a year, assuming getting out of the existing office lease doesn’t eat up the savings.

The citizen workshoppers also made two specific recommendations that would involve layoffs. Closing the branch libraries could save about $300,000 a year, and closing one of the more lightly-staffed fire stations might save perhaps $1 million.

The workshops also showed some support for one measure to raise fees for residents — by charging for yard waste pickups. City staff tonight will present a plan that could raise $1 million in new yard waste fees, and another $500,000 from increases in refuse pickup charges.

But the workshoppers strongly opposed raising property taxes.

Put all that together and you’ve still closed less than half the budget gap. And you’ve already laid off at least nine firefighters and 5.5 full-time equivalent employees at the library.

The workshop participants also endorsed furlough days — or operating the Civic Center just four days a week. The city’s finance director has estimated that each furlough day could save $200,000 — while still maintaining staffing of 24-hour a day operations like the police and fire departments. So one furlough day per month might save $2.5 million — and effectively trim the pay of most city workers by about 5 percent.

That would still leave a gap of more than $1.5 million. Barring some significant savings from other sources, that would leave the city in line for additional layoffs of perhaps 20 more employees to close the budget gap.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewitz is expected to reveal the outlines of his proposed budget for the new fiscal year that starts in March by Dec. 18.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. Service Cuts
    I hope that people in Evanston realize that cutting staff will impact City services. With the hiring freeze, many departments are already operating with a bare minimum of staff. There isn’t a lot of excess capacity. Removing employees will mean making decisions about how much or what can get done in a day, and it will mean that somethings won’t be done or will take longer to be done.

    In a town like Evanston where everyone wants what they want when they want it, it is going to hurt. You’re going to have to wait in longer lines to get permits, wait longer for service at the library, wait longer to have someone answer the phone and solve your problem.

    Maybe we need to layoff staff to close the gap, but we need to realize that these kinds of cuts do come with consequences.

    1. Why are City Workers any exception?
      … Or the remaining city workers will have to learn to work more efficiently to squeeze more into the work day.

      I work for a private sector company that experienced thousands of layoffs during this recession, and the surviving workers are expected to work harder to fill in the gaps. You are expected to do more without sacrificing the quality or quantity of the services you provide.

      I’m sure nearly everyone in the private sector would agree – The mantra this past year has been work more efficiently, or put in extra hours… And be grateful you still have a job!

      Why should city workers be any exception?

      As I have seen in my own company, people find “excess capacity” very quickly when faced with the possibility of losing their jobs.

      1. City staff aren’t private sector
        No, City employees shouldn’t be an exception. Except for the fact that by definition they aren’t private sector and don’t make private sector wages.

        But your response shows that you also expect to be able to make cuts in the City’s budget but not have it impact you as a citizen. Why is it wrong for the citizens of Evanston to have to bear the burden of the cuts? People say that we should live within our means and not pay for things we can’t afford. They make the analogy with a household budget (e.g. “If I can’t afford an HDTV then I don’t buy one and I do without.”) Fine. If you can’t afford to pay for enough employees to do all the work that’s needed, then you do without.

        1. Public sector pay
          You are correct that City employees don’t make private sector wages. City employees get paid public sector wages and benefits, which now well surpass the average wages and benefits of private sector employees.

          It used to be that public sector employees received lower compensation in exchange for higher job security. That is no longer the case. In many cases, public sector wages alone exceed the wages offered by the private sector. Once you factor in the vast disparity in benefits enjoyed by government employees, public sector employee compensation far exceeds that of the private sector. The difference is especially pronounced when one looks at public sector unionized employees.

  2. We’ll all make changes to deal with fewer City staff members
    For those of us with the internet, use the City web site to obtain routine information concerning City services and charges.

    Use the library during less-popular hours.

    For those of us with the internet, communicate with City personnel using the online resources.

    Communicate more with your alderperson — phone, letter or e-mail.

    For those of us with the internet, purchase permits online.

    Arlington Heights and Skokie get by with fewer City employees per capita. I am confident that we can do it.

    Here’s another idea on how to save money: get rid of the Township of Evanston. For the money spent on those services, very few people are served. If we must keep one or two of those employees, make them City of Evanston employees and move them to the Civic Center. The rent for the offices at Dodge and Main is high and should be eliminated.

    We’ll need a referendum, as I’ve heard. Fine — let’s do it.

  3. A lot of staff already eliminated…
    In addition, I believe there was an early retirement program that eliminated many positions two years ago…..

    I am guessing remaining staff already picked up some additional responsibilities.

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