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Council to get ideas for $4M in budget savings

Evanston aldermen tonight will get an update on 40 ideas suggested by community residents for cutting city costs or increasing revenue.

The 467-page staff report suggests pursuing implementation of 17 ideas, further investigating 21, and dropping two.

Only a dozen ideas have been researched thoroughly enough yet for staff to have dollar figures for the money they might save or the new revenue they might generate — but those add up to a range of between $3.3 and $4.9 million a year.

While details on the projected dollar amounts are still somewhat sketchy, it appears that about 60 percent would come from cost reductions, with the rest coming from increases in program fees and other charges to residents.

The 40 ideas were culled from an initial list of 175 budget suggestions made by residents during the Engage Evanston initiative earlier this year.

The 10 proposed changes that the report recommends pursuing that have dollar estimates available are:

  • Update employee job classifications for a projected savings of about $400,000. (p. 313 Joellen)
  • Step up code enforcement efforts for increased revenue of about $300,000, mainly from a proposed new rental licensing ordinance.
  • Increase collection of money owed the city by uniformly imposing late fees and making more extensive use of outside collection agencies, for a projected revenue increase of about $275,000.
  • Reduce funding for cable access programing and move the operation to the city's service center to eliminate rental costs, for a projected savings of about $170,000.
  • Reduce cell phone payments to city employees for a savings of $30,000.
  • Adopt automated license plate recognition technology to reduce staffing costs for parking enforcement by about $90,000.
  • Contract out the crossing guard program for a projected savings of about $300,000.
  • Revamp the Minority/Women/Evanston-based Business Program for a projected savings of $60,000.
  • Contract out and reorganize the community intervention and emergency housing programs for a projected savings of $73,000.
  • In the Health Department, let Erie Family Health take over the dental clinic operation and close the vital records office, which duplicates county services available in Skokie, for a projected saving of about $400,000.

Only two changes that the report recommends investigating further have dollar estimates available. They are:

  • Recreation programs. The report estimates that fees charged for recreation programs now cover only 53 percent of the direct and indirect cost of providing the service. Raising that cost-recovery percentage to 63 percent would generate about an additional $1 million in new revenue.
  • Rent vacant Civic Center space. The report estimates that, excluding the ground floor, the Civic Center has about 4,000 square feet of space that could be rented for about $25 per square foot per year. If three-quarters of that space was actually rented, it could generate $75,000 in new revenue.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has estimated that the city needs to trim its spending by several million dollars in each of the next two years to match anticipated declines in tax revenue. The city currently spends about $200 million a year.

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