Evanston city officials say they plan to survey local residents and seek ideas from similar communities nationwide as they look to work through yet another budget crunch.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told aldermen Tuesday night that he’s identified 10 communities that he wants to look to for information about how much they’re spending on different services and how they’re dealing with budget pressures.

The list includes four chicago suburbs of similar size to Evanston — Arlington Heights, Oak Park, Schaumburg and Skokie.

And it includes six towns from across the nation that also of similar size and house major universities — Ann Arbor, Mich.; Berkeley, Calif.; Cambridge, Mass.; Champaign, Ill.; New Haven, Conn., and Rockville, Md.

And he plans to ask residents to take part in an online budgeting exercise next month — asking them to decide how they’d allocate $100 of city funds among different government priorities.

In response to a question from Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, about including people who don’t have online access in the process, Bobkiewicz said the city could also include the survey in newspaper ads and have 311 operators help residents complete the budget exercise over the phone.

City staff will also develop an inventory of the city’s services and programs and identify how well what the city’s doing matches up with goals represented by city council priorities and the city’s strategic plan.

The process, which starts budget planning earlier than ever before, is expected to include a community planning meeting in late April or early May followed by a number of other sessions leading up to submission of the proposed 2012 budget to the City Council in early October.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston Homeowner/Resident Survey

    Me too. The real estate taxes in Evanston are killing us. Don't have a huge expensive house but because there are some nearby, I am taxed like I do.

    Will not be able to stay in our house after we retire. Cannot afford taxes now let alone in 15+ years.

    Even Wilmette taxes are less than Evanston.

  2. pretend you are starting a town from scratch

    What would you want as public services if you were starting a new town? Fire and crime protection and sanitation.

    I'm a big fan of recycling but it operates so poorly in Evanston, collecting garbage in the blue bins with no sanctions on those who violate the rules, that I would be happy to junk the whole program and simply go back to plain old garbage service with one fleet of trucks and one crew to run them – but Illinois law requires municipal recycling programs whether they work or not. There are probably other cases like this with legal requirements.

    To anonymous with the property tax lament – all city services combined are less than a third of your property tax. The schools are swallowing over two thirds of it.

    I have not followed the school board candidate debates closely but can anyone tell me – has any candidate said "we are spending too much per pupil and we must cut back." ?  Do the school districts provide data indicating spending per pupil over the years vs average Evanston family income and inflation similar to the graphs that Bill Smith provided here on government spending?

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