Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says he plans to conduct a detailed review of the 60 to 70 services the city now provides residents to help decide how to trim the city’s spending.
Bobkiewicz, speaking at a community meeting on the budget Thursday night, said the review would culminate in preparation of a one-page worksheet on each service.
The sheet would indicate how much the service costs and how much revenue it raises, whether the city is required by law to provide the service and whether the demand for the service has changed in recent years.
He said it will also consider whether other entities could provide the service and whether it offers opportunities for innovation in the way services are delivered.
He then hopes to be able to come up with numerical rankings for each service on several scales.
That’s just one part of the planned budget review, which will also include an examination of how ten other similar communities around the country are handling their budget problems and possibly an interactive tool to let residents say how they’d choose to allocate funds among different priorities.
Bobkiewicz said one goal is to help make policy decisions on a more informed basis.
As an example, he said, the city might decide that all youth recreation programs should be subsidized by tax dollars to some extent, but that all adult recreation programs should pay for themselves.
Residents at the meeting offered a wide variety of suggestions.
Carl Bova, of 1322 Rosalie St., said the city has been making good strides in understanding its long term debt problem. He suggested the city needs to develop a 100-year plan for funding roads, street lights and water and sewer facilities.
Kevin O’Connor of 1227-1/2 Isabella St. said the city should seriously consider bankrupcty as a way to get out from under its debts, and he called on aldermen to confess their budgetary sins of the past that he blamed for getting the city into its fiscal problems.
Mike Vasilko of 2728 Reese Ave. said the city should get local state lawmakers to a budget meeting to talk frankly about the problems state-mandated pension programs are causing the city.
Kate Mahoney, of 2538 Gross Point Road, said the city should place a high priority on mental health and other human services programs.
And Peggy Nelson, who said she lives in Glencoe but is considering moving to Evanston, praised the city arts programs that her daughter participates in. She said she believes they contribute substantially to the economic vitality of Evanston because she frequently shops at local businesses while her daughter is in classes at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.
City manager’s budget presentation -May 5, 2011 (.pdf)