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City budget: Where does the money go?

Evanston officials spent four hours today explaining the city budget to a group of citizens at the Levy Center. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.

Evanston officials spent four hours today explaining the city budget to a group of citizens at the Levy Center. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.

The city is spending about $203 million this year spread across a dozen different departments and more than two dozen separate funds, many of which exist mainly to keep accountants happy.

But if you look at it from a high enough level, you could split all the spending into a pie with five slices.

Public works gets the biggest chunk — 43 percent.

It includes the folks who pick up the trash, do routine street repairs and design roadway projects.

It also includes three of what the city calls "enterprise funds" — units that are run like a business and are intended to raise as much in fees for the service they provide as they spend to provide the service. Those are the parking, water and sewer funds.

Next in size at 25 percent is public safety. That includes the police and fire departments, the pension funds for two departments and the emergency telephone system fund.

Departments that have some quaisi-police functions — what we’ve labeled Development and Health — account for another 6 percent.

The Community Development Department enforces building, housing and zoning codes as well as trying to promote desirable new development through its planning and economic development roles.

And the Health and Human Services Department enforces restaurant regulations and handles rodent control issues as well as providing flu shots and birth and death records.

Units that provide amenities for citizens account for another 13 percent of the budget. The Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department and the Library Department make up this group.

Finally, front-office overhead — general and administrative costs — eat up 13 percent of the budget.

This includes the city manager’s office, the finance department, human resources, the law department, the city council and the city clerk’s office along with the city’s debt service fund.

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