Evanston’s city manager says the city is heading into next year’s budget planning process facing an $8 million revenue shortfall in its general fund.

This year’s general fund budget, net of inter-fund transfers, totaled $83.5 million, so the projected revenue shortfall for next year is nearly 10 percent of general fund spending.


Evanston’s city manager says the city is heading into next year’s budget planning process facing an $8 million revenue shortfall in its general fund.

This year’s general fund budget, net of inter-fund transfers, totaled $83.5 million, so the projected revenue shortfall for next year is nearly 10 percent of general fund spending.

Under state law the city must adopt a balanced budget each year, and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told about 35 people tonight at a 6th and 7th wards meeting at the Ecology Center that he hopes to come up with budget that doesn’t include any general tax increase.

The city signed one-year contracts with several of its employee unions this year that called for no layoffs. But Bobkiewicz noted that those agreements expire Feb. 28, the end of the current fiscal year.

“Almost 80 percent of the budget is people costs,” Bobkiewicz said. “It will be nearly impossible to close the gap without impacting employment.”

He said he doesn’t know yet what mix of furloughs, layoffs and salary reductions might be required to balance next year’s budget.

“The goal is to be as responsible as we can to the employees, to try to do the best we can, but we have to face fiscal realities,” Bobkiewicz said.

Monday the City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting about the current year’s budget, and Bobkiewicz says he believes the city can “manage through” for this year by trimming budgeted expenses and perhaps making some withdrawal from reserves. He said he’s not looking at any layoffs or furloughs for the rest of this budget year.

As for next year, the manager has scheduled a series of public workshops on the budget for next month, starting with a full-day session on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave., to gather public input on what programs residents are willing to see trimmed and which ones they most want to preserve, and how existing services might be provided more efficiently.

Bobkiewicz, who took over as city manager in August, conceded that morale among city employees is not great. “Like people in any kind of job, they want to be appreciated and know their work is valued,” he said, adding that he is trying to meet with all of the city’s roughly 900 employees and has built a staff component into the budget workshop process, asking city workers to suggest ideas for what to do to address the budget issues.

Bobkiewicz’s comments on the budget came the same day that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said his city faces a projected $550 million deficit for next year. Daley said that given the tough economic times he will not support any tax increase or increases in fines or fees to balance Chicago’s budget.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Fiscal Malfeasance
    It’s shocking enough that the city is projecting a massive shortfall next year that will undoubtedly affect Evanston’s already pitiful services.

    But how typical that the new city manager would try to sweep the horrible news under the rug by breaking it at a ward meeting just a few weeks after he tried to sneak the peddler ban onto the council agenda. Thanks, Evanston Now, for keeping tabs on this stuff.

    To be fair, the new guy inherited this mess. The real culprits are the city staff who have been allowed to get away with too much for too long, as well as the buffoons on the Council who spend like drunken sailors — and apologies here for this insult to drunken sailors.

    I mean, c’mon, a million bucks for a lakefront toilet? A half-million for new boat racks? And now they want to break the bank to re-do the Robert Crown Center? Hope the fine citizens of Evanston enjoy those pointless, pricey improvements while their trash piles up and the snow blocks their driveways.

    Let’s hope the new city manager isn’t so busy giving away the store to Northwestern that he has some time to impose fiscal responsibility on our irresponsible bureaucrats and politicians. This is outrageous.

  2. The city should file for
    The city should file for bankruptcy and reorganize. It is totally ridiculous that any organization with an 80 million plus budget signs a no layoff contract with labor. The is no business in the world that could make it with such nonsense. The dot come bust of 2000, the financial crisis of 2007 and next big bust is going to be the the bankruptcy of most state and local governments. Don’t be long municipal bonds.

    1. City give aways—chickens are coming home to roost
      People should read Roger Lowenstein’s “While America Aged” [EPL has] to see the effects pension/benefit [and other] promises cities make to keep labor peace “in their time” [so they get re-elected] without ever thinking about the actual costs. Government should be on the same accounting standards companies face—not cash accounting.
      Hopefully we won’t go the way of San Diego which not only faced/faces bankruptcy but fraud charges.
      However as blogger comments, bankruptcy may be the only way out the way the Council keeps doling out the money to their pet causes, funding junk art, neglecting sound contract negotiations, and generally taking care of economic business including attracting business [without give aways] by lowering taxes for everyone–not their pet causes.
      Maybe the Council and other government members should be required to buy city bonds so they have “skin in the game”—then maybe they will pay attention to business !

      1. Government pensions
        “People should read Roger Lowenstein’s “While America Aged” [EPL has] to see the effects pension/benefit [and other] promises cities make to keep labor peace “in their time” [so they get re-elected] without ever thinking about the actual costs. Government should be on the same accounting standards companies face—not cash accounting.”

        Companies have played this game too…GM, most notably, made all of those promises about health care and retirement which it cannot keep.

        Still, I agree with your point. Public pensions and benefits – which were based on short term thinking instead of a long term approach (NPV) – are unsustainable. This is why I am so annoyed by the irresponsible behavior of the candidates for state representative, who refuse to stand up to the public employees unions and reform the pension system.

        All of the Democrats are terrible on this issue. The fact is that when the state spends on pensions and benefits for employees, it has less money to spend on education, roads, prisons, environment, or health care for everyone else. By refusing to support pension reform, our so-called ‘progressive’ candidates are sabotaging the progressive agenda. ( Jeff Smith – I am talking to you.)

        As for chickens coming home to roost…chickens are still illegal in the City of Evanston.

        1. Government and GM Pensions
          Remember the government told GM that they ‘had to’ provide these generous benefits to employees due to union pressure. GM wanted to deal with employees on an economic basis but the government said ‘give in’ or you’ll be sorry—we can make things very difficult for you. Lowenstein goes into this.

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