Evanston spends 15.7 percent more per person than its neighbor Skokie on local government services.

The city will spend nearly $199 million in the fiscal year that ends next month to provide a bundle of services provided by three different government bodies in Skokie — the village, the library board and the park district.

Those three Skokie governmental units combined are spending nearly $148 million this fiscal year.

Adjust for Evanston’s estimated 2007 population of 75,905 compared to Skokie’s 66,659, and Skokie spends just over 84 cents per capita for every dollar spent by Evanston.

As Evanston aldermen work toward adopting a budget next month for the new fiscal year, and as candidates compete in April’s mayoral and aldermanic contests. it’s worth taking a closer look at the spending differences between the two neighboring towns.

And a close look at spending is especially critical this year as the city attempts to deal with the slowdown in the housing market and the general economy that put extra strain on many municipal revenue sources.

The level of funding in the two communities varies widely for different services.

Library and parks spending

With independent library and parks boards setting those budgets, Skokie spends far more than Evanston on those two service categories.

The library budget in Skokie totals $12.4 million, compared to about $5.4 million in Evanston, including about $600,000 for capital improvements in Evanston.

Skokie’s park district is spending $26.9 million this year.

The equivalent budget in Evanston is a little hard to nail down because facilities management for all city buildings and forestry services for parkway trees are included in the parks department. But it appears that parks and recreation spending this year in Evanston totals about $17.6 million, including $3.6 million for capital improvements.

So, on a per capita basis, Skokie spends $2.60 on library service for every dollar Evanston spends. And Skokie spends $1.74 on parks for every dollar Evanston spends.

Core municipal services

But when you compare services that the municipality provides in both communities, the picture changes.

The Village of Skokie spends less than $109 million on all the functions it provides, while after excluding the library and parks components of the city’s budget, the Evanston will spend nearly $176 million this year.

On a per capita basis that means for a similar bundle of services Skokie spends just 70-cents for every dollar spent by Evanston.

Among the municipal departments with the biggest discrepancies:

  • Health and Human Services — where Skokie spends 32-cents per capita for every dollar Evanston spends.
  • General administration and human resources — where Skokie spends 42 cents per capita for every dollar Evanston spends.
  • Police — where Skokie spends 73 cents per capita for every dollar Evanston spends.

We’ll take a closer look at spending levels in those service categories in coming days.

Related links

Evanston City Budget

Skokie Village Budget

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Good work Bill
    Your comparative research makes a strong argument for why we need change and new leadership with the next Mayor and City Council in Evanston. The devil is of course in the details … and I’ll be getting into those in the campaign in the coming days. In the meantime, keep up up the good work.

    Barnaby Dinges

  2. Comparitive Budgets
    Comparative analysis can and should be done, not just with Skokie but perhaps with 2-4 other towns about our size and population makeup. This ought to be a starting point for the council to exam more closely where all the money is going.

    For example, last time I looked, the city spends several hundred thousand dollars on a ‘sign department’. Frankly, I think we have too many signs in this town as it is.

    Comparison even to the line item detail is a worthwhile and fiscally responsible thing to do given the gravity of our current economic situation.

    John Kennedy

  3. I second that

    I’d like to also congratulate you on the good work. Thanks for helping to keep the people informed.

    What’s especially troublesome about these numbers is that Skokie itself is likely not exactly a paragon of fiscal restraint.

  4. Budget details

    May I add my thanks for doing that comparative analysis. I agree with John Kennedy that it should be extended to other municipalities of similar size, both nearby and further away.

    Having done that, then our budget should be examined and compared line item by line item to attempt to understand why there are such wide differences.

    Some of the differences may be justifiable (criteria?), some of the differences may be justified only by bafflegab.

  5. A little refinement to the comparison
    Bill – years ago Park Ridge used to publish a comparison of local government costs – I had a copy –
    They stopped doing this – one would guess most cities would not want the voters to know what was going on.

    Oak Park was on the list – Evanston was not – at the time they were comparing the costs of living in the community not services – Oak Park was at the top of the list – when I plugged in the Evanston numbers they were very close to Oak Park – put another way – it cost the average homeowner about 33% more in taxes and fees at the time to live in Evanston versus Wilmette. ( Wilmette was on the list)

    I once did a cost analysis that the difference of living in Wilmette versus Evanston could put a kid through a state University. That is if you lived in Evanmston for 18 years prior to sending your kid to college and invested the money.

    Whats more Bill you are making one small error the NU students while residents are not really residents – I would suspect many go home for the summer – thus decreasing Evanston summer time population, – by 5,000 to 10,000. Also NU is providing police service to the city – factoring both of these the costs of Evanston is even higher.

  6. Skokie-Evanston budget comparisons
    This is a very helpful analysis. The one problem with it is that it doesn’t really show the efficiency of the expenditures–only the relative commitments to different service areas. Evanston spends less on parks, and offers less. Evanston spends more on human services, and provides more. We need a further analysis of general and administrative costs to determine if we are getting more for our greater dollars. Same issue with police.

  7. budget
    ok, now that we have established; we are capable of educating ourselves on the issues evanston faces; can we talk about if any candidate for mayor has promoted any solutions? Tisdahl,Dinges..? Are any trying…?

  8. Evanston wanting share of Federal funds
    So the city wants to share in the expected funds the government will go out. Why ? to purchase more $7000 desks ? fund more consultants ? give big raises to city and school officials ?
    It is clear the city council and school board have never heard/learned about fiscal responsibility, what a budget is for or how to allocate funds to productive projects—maybe they need to take an economics course at NU instead of wailing against it.
    Until they do, maybe the Feds will find cities that will use the funds for actual development instead of pork and padding their life style.

  9. D65/202 administrative cost comparison with neighbors
    Bill, have you at any time investigated a comparison of the school budgets? I saw the per pupil figures you put together, but I am particularly interested in the administrative cost comparison…


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