City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston residents at a budget outreach session Wednesday evening that the city faces a nearly $7.5 million gap between forecast revenue and expenditures for next year.
That’s up from an estimate of about $6 million earlier this month.
Bobkiewicz says general fund revenue is forecast to fall nearly $5 million short of expenses. He says the city needs to find $1 million to pay for debt service on the new Robert Crown Center and set aside an additional $1.5 million to build up its general fund reserves.
One part of the solution to close the budget gap is expected to be a batch of increases to parking fees at meters, surface lots and garages around the city.
A detailed proposal for that is scheduled to be unveiled at Monday’s City Council meeting. A preview of the possible changes was provided in a staff memo issued late in July.
The city cut its full-time equivalent workforce by 26 positions this year to a total of 805, while making no substantial cuts to programs and services.
Bobkiewicz said more layoffs are likely for 2019, and for the first time they are expected to have a significant impact on the police and fire departments.
Police Chief Richard Eddington, who’s retiring at the end of the year, said the city has hired a consultant to review its command staffing organization and that the department has just finished an internal review of its patrol and investigative divisions.
He said that in anticipation of possible layoffs the deparment has held open a total of 11 vacant positions.
Eddington said the department is committed to “intelligence-led” policing and policing the community in a constitutional manner.
He said the department has focused resources to identify and arrest individuals who are involved in armed conflicts, rather than “just go find some guys with guns.”
He noted that when he began work in Evanston in 2007 the city had 3,100 part one crimes that are reported to the FBI. By last year that count had been reduced to 1,900.
Residents listen to the budget presentation.
The city currently is in contract talks with its employee unions, and Bobkiewicz said that this year’s 3 percent average general wage increase was higher than that in several comparable communities, including Glenview and Arlington Heights, which saw a 2.5 percent increase this year.
He said the city expects to see another drop in building permit fee revenue next year and is unlikely to know for several more months how much impact the opening of the downtown Target store and Binny’s Beverage Depot will have on sales tax revenue.
If voters opt to approve an increase in the Real Estate Transfer Tax on the November ballot, that could bring in an estimated $850,000 in new revenue for the city.
The manager’s proposed budget is scheduled to be released on Oct 5.
Also that day the city will unveil an online budget simulation called “A Balancing Act” that will let residents explore different modifications to the proposed budget.
The City Council is scheduled to give final approval to the budget, after making any proposed revisions, by late November.
The budget outreach meeting presentation (9/13/18)