Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz today proposed eliminating 47 full-time equivalent jobs from the city’s staff of 840 to help cover what he now projects is a $9.5 million general fund deficit next year.

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz today proposed eliminating 47 full-time equivalent jobs from the city’s staff of 840 to help cover what he now projects is a $9.5 million general fund deficit next year.

That shortfall is $1.5 million bigger than what staff had estimated the city faced just a couple months ago. He now projects the city will have just under $85 million in general fund revenue next year.

Beyond the layoffs, the plan calls for a variety of austerity measures to save $1.6 million.

These include eliminating cost of living adjustments for all workers, requiring all staff to take three unpaid holidays, raising the employee contribution to health care costs by 5 percent, eliminating merit increases for non-union employees, and trimming the pay of all department directors, the assistant city manager and the city manager by 5 percent.

The plan includes the following department-level changes designed to save nearly $5.6 million:

  • Parks and Recreation: Eliminate seven currently occupied full and part time positions and four vacant positions and make other spending reductions for a total savings of $988,000.
  • Libraries: Close both branch libraries and outsource materials acquisition and cataloging to eliminate several positions at the main library, for an overall savings of $823,000.
  • Public Works: Reorganize fleet services, reducing three positions, and make solid waste service changes already tentatively approved by the City Council for a total savings of $881,000.
  • City Manager’s Office: Eliminate several information technology jobs and move that unit from the city manager’s office to a new Administrative Services Department to save $642,000. Also eliminate a vacant assistant city manager position and reduce funding for the Evanston Community Media Center by $200,000, but increase contingency funding for a net savings of $165,000.
  • Finance/Human Resources: Fold the current Finance and Human Resources departments into the new administrative services department. Several mostly vacant positions in those two units would also be eliminated to save $489,000. The new department would be headed by Joellen Daley who now heads human resources.
  • Police: Eliminate two vacant and two currently filled positions and reduce some special patrols to save $493,000.
  • Fire: Reduce overtime and eliminate a vacant division chief position to save $433,000.
  • Health and Human Services: Eliminate the dental services program and reduce funding for community purchased services by $200,000 to save a total of $393,000. Several jobs now part of the department’s “human services” component would be moved to other departments and the department name would be shortened to just Health Department.
  • Community Development: Eliminate a zoning officer position and a vacant electrical inspector job plus eliminating temporary employees and overtime for inspectors would save $277,000. The unit would be renamed Community and Economic Development and would pick up a few employees being moved from other departments.
  • Law Department: No expense reductions, but the department would take over responsibility for the administrative adjudication program now part of the finance department and for management of the liquor control board now housed in the city manager’s office.

After accounting for vacant positions, the layoffs will hit 36 permanent full-time and part-time employees as well as five people filling temporary or contract jobs.

Bobkiewicz says he hopes to raise about $2.3 million in new revenue primarily through new yard waste and increased refuse fees, a transfer from the township for community purchased services and reimbursement from the school districts for police department school resource officers.

He said he’s also identified an additional $1.5 million in cuts spread across various units that he would like the City Council to consider. The additional savings from those cuts, he says, would be used to provide more funding for the police and fire pension funds or to increase the city’s general fund reserve.

The City Council will start its review of the proposed budget on Saturday, Jan. 9. It’s expected to adopt a budget in late February for the fiscal year that begins March 1.

Related links

Budget memo

Budget worksheet

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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15 Comments

  1. Job Description
    As a relatively recent transplant to Evanston, I’m unclear as to the role of the “City Manager”. I confess I’m from Chicago and I clearly understand the Mayor> Aldermen> Staff structure of city government, but I don’t know what a City Manager does that a mayor couldn’t do. Couldn’t we save a few bucks by eliminating the City Manager position and giving those powers and responsibilities to our mayor?

    Reply:
    Under the council-manager form of government used in Evanston and most other suburbs in the region, the mayor is a part-time elected official with largely ceremonial responsibilities. The city manager, appointed by the city council, is the full-time CEO of city government. The city council, composed of part-time elected aldermen with the mayor presiding, serves in a role akin to that of a corporate board of directors, setting policy for the city.
    The idea traces its origins to the progressive movement of a century ago, and advocates argue that the system leads to a less-politicized, more professional governmental operation.
    It contrasts with the strong mayor system you’re familiar with from Chicago.
    — Bill

  2. Layoffs
    Of the thirty-six City employees who received their layoff notification on Friday, sixteen of them work at the Evanston Public Library.

  3. A $200,000 cut to ECMC is not
    A $200,000 cut to ECMC is not enough. ECMC will argue their gregariously irrelevant conclusion that they are protecting the Evanston citizen’s right to free speech on television. This is an expensive and egregious lie to the public.

    Free social networking and YouTube have changed the game completely. There will be people that argue that “access” to the Internet is not universal, but this is only superficially similar to the need for public access television.

    1. ECMC
      The cut to ECMC is misplaced. There are much better places to reduce the budget deficit.

      ECMC provides a valuable service in allowing citizens to observe our council and various civic entities at work. Not all citizens are able to attend the meetings.

      Seeing them in action — or non-action — is much better and revelatory than a written description.

      “Free social networking and YouTube have changed the game completely” is erroneous. It assumes that all citizens have access to broadband or smart phones — or those that do not have no relevance.

      ECMC is funded by cable fees — not property taxes.

      Reply:
      The cut would still leaves ECMC with a $155,000 subsidy from the city. I suspect that is enough to provide City Council meeting coverage.
      At last report, only 14,000 households in Evanston had Comcast cable service — less than half the total households here. The rest can’t see ECMC programming.
      — Bill

      1. As far as ECMC being funded
        As far as ECMC being funded by cables taxes, yes, there could be a line drawn there. Cable franchise fees need to be spent with great trepidation. They really shouldn’t be earmarked without some kind of governance, i.e., a Cable Commission. Additionally, these fees may go the way of the dodo bird by the time you can say Jack Robinson.

        The cost of having the public access studios on 1285 Hartrey is not justified, in terms of costs versus the effective return on these costs (locally produced shows). According to their website, ECMC’s facilities are staffed and open 13 hours a day throughout the week. Ditch the facility!

    2. Defining the value of ECMC
      I value the City Council meetings on ECMC. I value the School Board meetings on ECMC. Providing access to the City’s business is a proper role for government.

      But programs that do not relate to the City or its schools should not be taxpayer supported programming.

      As a City, we do not need to fund cable television access for people who want to talk about their cars or their pets or their religions. If they want to disseminate this information, they are free to pay for the air time and production time. Even the veterans’ interviews could be on air with grants or other funding.

      Free speech means that citizens can speak without limitation or intrusion. It does not mean that government must provide free access to electronic media.

    3. ECMC
      it’s a shame any of these budget cuts have to happen but I gotta go along “200,000 cut is not enough” on this one—I’m weighing in from the living room chair here with remote in hand—and what I’ve seen for many years now ain’t much—Were broke and this looks to be an obvious choice for the all too unfortunate chopping block…As well stated post notes–“Free social networking and YouTube have changed the game completely”—That about sums it up–with all due respect to ECMC

  4. “strong” mayor?
    Actually, the City of Chicago has a weak mayor – strong council system. If the aldermen chose too, they can control the city. Look at the early Harold Washington years to see how the government is structured. The Mayor’s power comes from his/her control over city employees.

    The City Manager form of government is a much more efficient and professional way to run a city and much less susceptible to the blowing of political winds and whims.

  5. Benefits
    The above cuts are a good start, but why is there no mention of across-the-board cuts in benefits enjoyed by City Employees? Surely cutbacks could have been made to health & dental insurance benefits, pensions, and through the institution of “use it or lose it” vacation & sick days.

  6. A good start but the unions appear to get preferential treatment
    This looks like a good start but I’m curious as to why only union employees can still get merit increases? Why not non-union employees?

    How much money would the city save by eliminating the merit increases for union employees? If you’re going to eliminate it for non-union employees then you should do the same for union employees.

    Taking away the merit increase from non-union employees also sends a message that if you’re working for the city and not in a union you’ve better get into one. It isn’t fair and it’s bad policy.

    I also wonder how many union employees are actually getting laid off? Are the 16 library employees who are getting the ax also unionized?

    Finally, why not shut down one of the two Central Street fire stations? Whenever there’s a big fire we always get Wilmette’s help anyway.

    1. Fire Stations for Safety
      Whenever there’s a big fire we always get Wilmette’s help anyway.

      So your argument is we already need help from other towns during big fires, therefore close a fire station? That doesn’t make any sense.

      Reply:
      All the communities in the area have mutual assistance agreements. Evanston sends units to other towns when requested. Other towns send units to us.
      The always difficult questions to answer are how much is enough and how can available resources be most efficiently allocated.
      –Bill

  7. “For all intents and purposes…”?
    I found the following posting on the Evanston Community Media Center’s web site. Is it accurate to state that “for all intents and purposes, [the proposed $200,000 cut] will close down ECMC”?

    Bluntly, I am not concerned about eliminating all programming by ECMC, other than the City Council meetings, School Board meetings and any of those entities’ committees that may be televised. Of the remaining content, virtually all of it should not be paid for by either taxes or cable fees.

    But is it accurate for ECMC to state that this budget cut will close them down so there will be no more transmission of government meetings? To me, it seems like a scare tactic to enflame those who support ECMC and any of their programs.

    Here’s the exact text of the posting on the ECMC web site:

    City Proposes Budget cut that will Close ECMC!, posted by Steve on Mon Dec 21 09:30:22 2009
    ECMC has just received official word from the City of Evanston that the 2010 proposed budget has been released and it includes a $200,000 cut for the Media Center, which for all intents and purposes, will close down ECMC.
    If you would like to know how to help in our fight to keep the doors open, please contact us at comment@ectv.com

    1. Shutter ECMC
      Yes, the $200,000 hit will close the facility at 1285 Hartrey, which is the “head-end” for the live signals from the Civic Center and the D65 Administration building. The City would have to ask Comcast to move some switching equipment to the real “head-end” at James Park. There is still a way to preserve the capabilities of broadcasting live meetings, in spite of the impending arguments from ECMC.

      Both meeting “setups” are remote controlled. I’ve seen the small control room down the hall from the Council Chambers. It’s no NASA launch control. It would be easy enough to hire students or interns that could provide the meeting coverage required for both meetings.

      “…is it accurate for ECMC to state that this budget cut will close them down so there will be no more transmission of government meetings?”

      No.

      Comcast’s agreement to provide municipal, educational and public access channels on their system is with the city of Evanston and not ECMC. The city has contracted ECMC to handle the management of these channels.

      Comcast would work with the city to help with the change. After all, they are grossing millions of dollars in annual business in Evanston alone.

  8. City Cars and Parking
    Has an evaluation been done of all the city owned cars ? I see a lot of them parked behind city hall. Are all of them needed ? Are they in a ‘pool’ where they are checked-out when needed [i.e. shared by all staff] or individually assigned to each department so that many are not in use at any given time ?
    Are city cars used by managers or other for their personal use, including driving to and from work ? Are employees who park in city lots [and at city hall] paying for parking—all private business employees incur parking costs. Given that all city employees should be Evanston residents and we have CTA [as well as legs and bikes], it should not be necessary to have any employee parking.

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