Evanston aldermen hold their first workshop session on the city budget Saturday.

Evanston aldermen hold their first workshop session on the city budget Saturday.

They’re facing a nearly $2 million deficit in the budget proposed by the city manager, despite its call for a nearly 5 percent increase in property taxes.

The session starts at 9 a.m. in the City Council Chamber at the Civic Center and we plan to provide live coverage.

On Evanston Now this week readers have been debating how aldermen should respond to the budget crunch.

Employee pay

One question on many minds has been whether city employees are better paid than those in the private sector.

We don’t have an immediate answer for that question for Evanston, but the New York Times reports that in New York the average city employee now costs taxpayers $107,000 a year in wages, health insurance, pension and other benefits.

That’s an increase of 63 percent since 2000 — a rate of increase twice as fast as that of employees in the private sector, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

Staffing levels

The proposed new city budget would freeze city employment levels at 840 full-time-equivalent positions, but leaving 14 vacant positions unfilled.

That’s down from a total of 883 full-time-equivalent jobs in 2006-07, but it’s still higher than the 822 employees the city had a little over a decade ago, in fiscal year 1997-98. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. 1% deficit
    The $2 million deficit should be put in much more clearer perspective. According to the 2009-2010 Budge proposal, the city’s total budget is estimated to be at $235,521,030. Thus, the $2 million deficit represents less than 1% of the total budget. In my mind, that is pretty good considering that an average American saves less than 1% of their income a year. Now, I am not saying that we should spend every year everything that we make. I think it should be very easy for the city to cut $2 million dollars out of its budget. For example, the city just backed $844,000 in taxpayers money to support private agencies providing mental health services in Evanston. We have to major hospital in Evanston and both provide plenty of charity care for well qualified individuals. Also, the city should consider getting out of garbage collection business. Take that into consideration and the budget would get resolved. In addition, comparing New York to Evanston is literately comparing apples to oranges. City of Evanston employees are paid well, however, Evanston does not pay TOP dollars to its workers. An average Police Officer or Firefighter in Evanston gets paid approximately $9000 less per year than the same employee in Aurora, Naperville, Elmhurst, Northbrook, or even Wilmette.

    1. Top dollar and city workers
      DC – years back at a budget hearing Alderperson Drummer – stated when they placed items to cut – place $100,000 on the sanitation line item everyone knows what that is, he never bother to elaborate.

      This is the problem here – we have costs that are plain “fat” no council member or city manager wants to cut. They have been around for years –

      The need to privatize sanitation – may nor may not be needed – whether a private company picks up the trash or the city – the manpower and equipment should be the same.Ofcourse this should be monitored by the council. which is not the case here – because they do not care about real costs – alot of nonsense such as “hire Evanston resident program” – which is a good example. These types of programs are what they put their time into, because it is worthless and they understand it and it serves their political needs.

      As for police and fire – I believe there is fat in these departments – at the administrative level and in support services which should be challeged and looked at careful – there appear to be some very expensive positions created, I have posted question on the fire department creating several position which no council member bother to challege – why because they are clueless as to what the position do.

      Given the council members patronage – the taxpayers have gotten a poor deal here.

      1. Junad, can you give
        Junad, can you give specifics about what positions were added to police and fire that are “fat”?

    2. Response to “1% Deficit”
      DC wrote: “I think it should be very easy for the city to cut $2 million dollars out of its budget. For example, the city just backed $844,000 in taxpayers money to support private agencies providing mental health services in Evanston. We have to major hospital in Evanston and both provide plenty of charity care for well qualified individuals.”

      I respectively disagree with DC. This sounded incorrect so I looked at the actual line items and what is supported. First, the services are much greater than mental health services. They cover a range of human services issues and it was difficult to find any services that are receiving City money that either of the hospitals also provide.

      The hospitals’ charity care is not supporting the majority of mental health concerns in Evanston. While they do an excellent job with what they offer, they are limited as to how much care they can provide for many people who need care and do not have insurance. Sometimes “well qualified” means being able to afford specialized care.

      In last year’s budget book, it appeared that these services that you do not want to support were provided for almost 12% of the entire City population.

      Please keep this in mind: Many of the services that you do not want to support are also “receiving” support from the State. Or are supposed to. The State is many months behind in paying them. In some cases it is as much as 6 months. So these services are having to tap out their credit lines at the bank (yes, they spend money here in town and support local businesses) in order to make payroll. And they are certainly not providing top dollar for salaries. And they are doing it to help, for examples, *the family with a teen who is having serious substance abuse issues; *a senior who needs in-home care in order to continue to live in your neighborhood; *a family that needs some limited child care support so they can continue to work at a low-wage job that does not qualify for state support BUT is not enough to enable them to pay for child care; *the only domestic violence services in the area.

      The budget figures that you cite means that .0035 of the City’s proposed budget will be supporting care for people with some extreme needs in our community. The allocation has not changed for years. The services are for well-qualified people and they are, in many cases, my neighbors. If we as a community collectively create an $844,000 hole in the budgets of these programs, are you willing to pick up your level of charitable giving to enable the programs to survive in our community? Because that is where they get the remainder of their support.

  2. Top dollars and city workers
    As far as it goes about cutting mental programs and garbage collections – I never said that these expenditures would be first to go. I just used them as an example to represent the 1% overall deficit. Now, when it comes to POLICE and FIRE compensations. As I mentioned in my last posting, an average police officer and firefighter in Evanston makes significantly less per year than the same employee in other comparable and less busy communities. The upper management of these two departments is another story and it is purely controlled by the City of Evanston HR.

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