A Florida town almost as big as Evanston gets by with just nine city employees — because it’s contracted out all its city services.

Governing magazine today reports that Weston, Fla., population 65,000, manages to provide all those services for just $121 million a year. That compares to a 2012 budget of $216 million to provide city services to the nearly 75,000 residents of Evanston.

Weston gets by with what are described as 285 full-time equivalent employees, assigned by contract to work full time for the city. That compares to a total of 793 full-time equivalent city workers in Evanston

Perhaps the biggest single cost difference is for fire and police protection. Weston contracts that work out to Broward County at a cost of $28 million.

Evanston pays a total of $57 million for its own police and fire departments, including penson payments.

Weston, described as an affluent communtiy 25 miles northwest of Miami, also has the lowest property tax rate in Broward County, at $2 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Evanston’s comparable rate is $13.64.

Voters who established Weston in the mid-1990s insisted on city charter provision that calls for contracting out all city services unless four out of five council members vote to make an exception.

But Jonas Prager, an economic professor at New York University who has studied Weston, told Governing it would be politically challenging — and in some cases legally difficult — for an older community to replace public workers on a large-scale basis with contract employees. 

Related documents

Weston, Fla., 2012 city budget (.pdf)

Evanston, Ill., 2012 city budget (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I hope the Council is listening—probably not

    We need more of this kind of thinking.

    What about hiring NU students to take some of the city work ?

    Have NU contract for managing the city finances—could not do worse that the existing management.

    Use NU [Kellogg, McCormick, Education, etc.] instead of all this giving out contracts to non-Evanston firms.

  2. Contractors need supervision

    I have been through the "contract everything out" phase of management in the 90's.  What we learned then is still true today: contractors need supervision and lots of it. There is just no getting away from constant management of a consultant.

    There might be some very routine and straight forward services to which this makes sense (collections and billing, etc.), but otherwise, every contractor needs to be counseled, guided and watched – regularly. Think Halliburton!

    And the suggestion that NU students could do the work without lots of direction and supervision is absurd.  Whoever wrote this comment definitely does not have a college student in their household or has never had to supervise college summer help.  It can be a handful just to have a single summer college student in your office.

    I am not saying that there isn't a place for college help – or for consultants, but it is certainly not the panacea for management that everyone dreams of.

    1. Contractors don’t need tons of supervision

      I disagree with your post here.

      If the contractors aren't doing a good job, fire them and replace them with contractors who do better.

      How to tell if they are doing their job? Simple. Ask the residents via internet surveys once/twice a year-  Is your garbage being picked up?  Are your streets plowed?  Are the parks in your area well maintained?  etc. 

      If the data points show that a large % of residents are unhappy with services provided, either give the contractor a time period to improve or fire them and find someone better-

      This is how a business works. We residents are the customers of the city- but lately, the government employees seem to feel like we all work solely to pay for them.



  3. Proper Management the anwswr not contracting out the work

    While I think contracting out some city functions makes sense, the real issue is proper finanical management of the city.  Wally and his council member friends are out of control.

    Wally has had several chances to contract out services, his pet project 311 could have been completely contracted out. He could have hired some contract fire fighters in the last few years due to retirements, which would have help to lower pension costs.

    I top of this Wally has created many new positions, in economic development and other areas.  He keeps on tell us how he cut, but he has also added.

    Also if the cuts were so effective, why the 8% effective tax increase in last years budget.

    Wally is clearly spending money we don't have. the shell game with fund transfer continues,on the Trader Joes deal, Marty Lyons, peresent the spread sheet for the parking funds showed everyone all the money in the fund, but he missed one important point he did not bother to tell us, the committments the fund needs to pay out over the year, and any potential high payouts in the next several years.

    The similarly is like a few years ago, when they were going to transfer funds out of the reserve, with about 14 million dollars in it, they need 8 million a month to pay the bills, 14 millions does go too far, ofcourse in recent budget hearings they have take small amounts out of the fund.

    I suspect the issue of the other city here, goes well beyond its contracting out, but having responsible leadership which is not over spending on pet projects . ( wine and cheese bars?) and patronage to gain favors and votes.

  4. The next Detroit?

    So some affluent community in Florida has done away with government functions….but that's not Evanston.  How about looking a little closer to home…like Michigan?

    According to an article in The Atlantic":

    "Could Detroit become the first major city in America to have all of its public services privatized? Signs are pointing in that direction"

    "Things have been managed so badly for so long in Detroit that many find the idea of an emergency manager enticing. But the track records of emergency managers in Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, and Ecorse have been controversial. Organizations such as Michigan Forward warn Detroit's citizens' not to hand over their city, arguing that services will get worse and people in the "99 percent" will have to pay more for them. The benefits, according to these groups, will be reaped by major corporations, at the expense of the poor and middle class. And once an emergency manager is in place, they argue, the entire political process will be put on hold — there will be no votes, no city council, no way for citizens to make their voices heard."

    So…the right-wingers who are always saying that Chicago or Evanston will be 'the next Detroit' might be right….Daley started the process of handing over assets to the corporate criminal class, and it looks like Rahm wants to do the same. 

    Maybe Evanston can turn over control of police, fire, and garbage to Jamie Dimon and Bernie Madoff.




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