Evanston’s Human Services Committee tonight will be asked to approve a township general assistance budget that calls for an 18 percent spending increase over last year’s actual spending.
The proposed spending boost comes even though Evanston voters in March approved by a 2-1 margin a referendum urging the town board to dissolve the township and have the City of Evanston take over its responsibilities.
The budget, prepared by Township Supervisor Pat Vance, includes a projected 36 percent increase in payments to general assistance clients, even though last year’s actual spending for that purpose fell 27 percent below what Vance had budgeted for that year.
Although the township has more than a full year’s worth of expenditures in its fund balance, Vance has resisted pressure from town board members to substantially reduce the reserves.
Vance says in her budget message that the township should keep at least a half year of anticipated expenditures in the fund balance reserve, but the actual general assistance fund reserve now stands at 14 months — or $1.5 million against projected annual spending of less than $1.3 million.
Although Vance calls for reducing the township’s general assistance fund property tax levy by 10 percent over last year’s budgeted amount, that would only be enough to reduce the budget reserve by about one month’s worth of spending.
The large projected spending increases in the face of steady or falling demand may be a way to appear to be substantially reducing the fund balance while actually trimming it only modestly at most.
The general assistance budget shows essentially no increase in payroll costs for general assistance staff, but it anticipates increases of 17 percent in payments for general assistance client medical expenses and 55 percent in emergency assistance grants over the actual expenditures on those line items during the past year.
The separate town fund budget shows a 6 percent increase over last year’s budget and a 10 percent increase over actual expenditures.
Costs for the township assessor’s office would rise 9 percent under the proposal, while expenses for the supervisor’s office would drop nearly 16 percent.
The budget also calls for a 44 percent increase in grants to non-profits that provide community service programs.
That budget shows a 15 percent reduction in the proposed tax levy, and increased withdrawals from reserves.
The proposed township budget (.pdf)