Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the city next week will launch an effort to get community input on how the city should trim its services to try to live within its revenue. He provided the following letter outlining his plans for the process.

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the city next week will launch an effort to get community input on how the city should trim its services to try to live within its revenue. He provided the following letter outlining his plans for the process.

The Evanston community has many strengths: an engaged community; an excellent educational system; dedicated non-profit organizations and volunteers; and a city government that is committed to providing a wide variety of services to the public. Evanston prides itself on its quality of life and the community’s commitment to programs and services that enhance our city.

The City of Evanston’s ability to continue providing a diverse array of services is in jeopardy because the revenues that the city currently collects cannot continue to support the existing level of services. The city faces the task of how to address its fiscal challenges without significantly impacting the variety and quality of services we provide. I believe we must look realistically at what are the most important services we provide and make sure that they are provided at the most exceptional level possible and for those services or programs we cannot deliver at that level, I believe it appropriate to look to others to provide them.

The city will be launching an outreach effort to engage all Evanston residents in finding solutions to these issues. This effort, “Engage Evanston,” will be part the city’s ongoing dialogue with residents on all issues facing the city. The city will focus its efforts May 1-7, 2011 to get ideas from residents on the budget. During this week, the city is asking residents to submit ideas to us by mail, email, telephone, Facebook, Twitter or in person on items we should consider while developing our 2012 budget priorities. The city will conduct a variety of outreach events including a public meeting at the Morton Civic Center on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 7 p.m.

This City Council has made reductions of nearly $13 million since Fiscal Year 2008/09. These cuts have been difficult, but I do not believe they have had a substantial impact on the services we provide or to our quality of life. Looking to FY 2012 and 2013, I believe the city will continue to have deficits in the $1.5 to $2 million range and that there are no further service reductions that can be made that will not significantly impact services and quality of life.

The city has already raised property taxes for pension costs over the last few years with no additional portion of the property tax going to general fund operations. We do not have the luxury to further increase the property tax (or any other tax) without increasing flight of residents and businesses from Evanston; keeping and enhancing the current mix of residents and businesses is critical our future.

I believe the city needs to increase its investments in critical quality of life infrastructure (streets, parks and public facilities) without significantly adding to general obligation debt that we are already challenged to pay off. Part of a solution in funding capital is to shift some annual operating funds to capital projects as a permanent change in city spending.

Mayor Tisdahl and the Council have asked me to begin a complete review of all city services. This will include an evaluation of each service; the costs and revenues associated with them; and how it helps implement the goals of the city’s strategic plan and the Council’s goals. This evaluation would ultimately assign a numeric score to each service to help the Council prioritize services.

The ideas collected through the “Engage Evanston” process In May 2011 along with those from our 2010 efforts will be tallied and presented to the Council at a special meeting on Monday, May 16, 2011. Staff will work through the next several months gathering data and analyzing various options.  Staff will then return to the Council in early August with the results of this work and begins developing options for consideration to balance the budget. There will be a second round of community outreach to receive input on these options in August and September. I will present my proposed FY 2012 City Budget to Mayor Tisdahl and the Council in early October. The Council will have budget hearings in late October through November, with adoption of the budget scheduled for just before Thanksgiving.

It will be difficult to develop consensus in the community on steps to be taken in order to balance the budget. However, opinions of all Evanstonians are important to help develop options for consideration.  No single opinion or viewpoint creates a dialogue. Many voices help create a meaningful dialogue that can lead to the valuable input the Mayor and City Council need to help inform their decision-making.

I encourage all Evanston residents to be involved in these budget discussions over the next several months in whatever manner possible, to help shape the difficult quality of life decisions that face our community in the months and years ahead.

Wally Bobkiewicz
City Manager
City of Evanston

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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9 Comments

  1. I think the city must

    I think the city must seriously look at what the library volunteers did in creating a branch that operates at just

    a reported $39,000.00 per year. 

  2. Keep cutting, Wally!

    Keep cutting, Wally! As Winning Turtle observes, the closing of the South library branch demonstrates that there's little to fear from turning certain non-essential services over to the free market. If people want a discontinued service badly enough, they will find a way to replace it. Government is the least efficient provider of services ever devised. Cut cut cut!

  3. I appreciate somebody with

    I appreciate somebody with enough common sense to understand economic cause/effect, incentive/disincentive. I appreciate cuts. However it is much ado about nothing as long as public safety personnel exist in the numbers they do.. that will ruin the city regardless of (mostly) token cuts. Cruelty of math. City bankruptcy ultimately will be the best and only option, but I dont think we are there yet.

  4. Wally B’s March to Bankruptcy

    Wally B's constant demand for job cuts will drive Evanston to bankruptcy. Morale in the city government is rock bottom.  Among municipal administrators, Evanston has a reputation as one of the worst managed towns between Chicago and the Wisconsin border.  Many employees are leaving the city government for retirement or better jobs.   Retirement and replacement costs are astronomical.  Few qualified workers are applying for city jobs.  Wally has created a tailspin he can’t stop.   

    1. Cuts?

      How many employees has the city added – 311 add $600,000 of new employees , the city hired a employee to lobby, hire some new economic development planners. Maybe the net effect is 50 positions, maybe – I would like to see a real accounting. Since the 50 positions might be FTE – which means they cut some part time employees who do not even get benefits,  

      While the branch library issue was taking up all the time, few if any citizens have demand any real accountability on how the city is really operating.   Staff over estimating yard waste sticker sales by $700,000 does not cut it -given Wally is claiming a short fall of 1.5 million – will any one be held accountable?

      1. Call Center—current stats ?

        Now that it has existed for several months and the 'novelity' is past, do we have:

        1. Number of calls per day vrs. 1st week

        2. Breakdown of what calls are about—emergency, information that can be found on city Web stie, trivial, that should never had been called, "Prince Albert in a can" type questions

        3. If operator could handle  or had to pass on to a city department or caller told to call the department directly

        4. Cost per call i.e. monthly cost of labor, office, computers, etc. per call

         

          1. Why not call the relevant department ?

            From the lists, it looks like people should have been calling the department itself instead of 311.  Were the departmental offices closed when the 311 call was made ?

            The police department is never closed and so 311 should never get calls from them.

            If you go to the EPL or even NU library Reference Departments, you will constantly hear people, supposedly educated, asking questions that could be answered faster on Google, an encyclopedia or checking the catalog.  This does not even count the questions that a librarian should not be asked, expected to know, or expected to spend anytime checking. People can be very lazy and want someone else to do all the work even if in reality it would take them less time and resources to do themself.

          2. Assuming you’re the same

            Assuming you're the same "Anonymous" as the previous commenter in this thread (and my apologies if not, but the criticism of 311's function stands for itself), how ironic is it that I found the answers to a few of your questions through a Google search?

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