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City’s 2021 budget picture looking worse

Evanston's interim city manager, Erika Storlie, told residents at a 2nd Ward meeting Thursday evening that it now appears the city will have an $8 million revenue shortfall to close

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Erika Storlie.

Evanston’s interim city manager, Erika Storlie, told residents at a 2nd Ward meeting Thursday evening that it now appears the city will have an $8 million revenue shortfall to close in next year’s budget.

That’s up from a forecast of $5 million to $7 million provided by city staff just last week.

Storlie said the city is likely to hold open a lot of vacant positions to try to close the gap and may have to impose some layoffs, “but not a lot.”

She said that amid calls to defund police, there’s a lot of misunderstanding.

Reducing spending on police won’t necessarily translate to having more funding for the human services programs defunding advocates say they want, Storlie said.

“Right now the overall pie is just getting a lot smaller,” she said. “Cuts have to come from somewhere, and a lot are coming from police.”

“But that money is not available to spread to other departments — it no longer exists,” she added.

She said the police department already is about 18 positions short of the staffing it had before reductions started. Overall the city has about 50 open positions.

“I don’t imagine we will have the ablity to fill any of those positions,” Storlie said. “They will either have to be eliminated or held vacant.”

The city’s proposed budget is scheduled to be released on Oct. 9, and after extensive review by the City Council, is likely to be adopted around Thanksgiving.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, praised Storlie for finding ways to balance the budget so far without “a lot of high anxiety” that occurred in previous years when there were proposals to close a fire station or eliminate a program to aid youth and young adults.

“Erika, you’ve found a way to balance the budget while maintaining things that are really important to residents,” Braithwaite said. “But the pandemic is real and we still have $8 million to try to make up. It’s going to take a lot of creativity from staff to balance the budget.”

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