Evanston alders postponed action on an amendment to last year’s budget Monday night after Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) claimed she hadn’t been informed that some expenses were going over budget.
Overall city spending for 2021 came 10% below budget, as a result of pandemic-driven budget cuts.
But several factors — including unscheduled departures of top-level city staff that resulted in termination payouts, police officers leaving for other jobs that triggered pension fund transfers and pandemic-related expenses in the health department — caused some funds within the budget to go over their allocated amounts.
Under state law, the city is required to adopt a budget amendment to reflect the increased spending in the funds that went over, but it’s not required to adjust budgeted amounts for funds that came in under budget.
Kelly initially claimed that the Council hadn’t approved the expenses that went over budget.
But Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings said all the expenses had by approved by Council on the city’s bills list. In addition many items came before Council for separate votes.
Kelly then argued that those approvals amounted to “uninformed consent” because council members hadn’t been told that the individual items would exceed the fund amounts.
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said, “We should congratulate ourselves” given that overall expenses came in 10% below budget.
“A budget is only an expectation of the amount of money you plan to spend,” he said. “It’s entirely reasonable to anticipate that some items will come in over budget.”
Kelly moved to hold the budget amendment until the next City Council meeting. Ald. Devon Reid (8th) seconded her motion.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) joined them in defeating a motion by Nieuwsma to overturn the hold, which would have required a two-thirds vote to pass.