City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston aldermen Tuesday night that the city’s general fund spending is projected to increase twice as fast as revenues over the next two years.

He said he expects revenue to go up 2 percent per year, while costs will rise by 4 percent.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston aldermen Tuesday night that the city’s general fund spending is projected to increase twice as fast as revenues over the next two years.

He said he expects revenue to go up 2 percent per year, while costs will rise by 4 percent.

And that’s assuming city workers agree to settle for no cost-of-living pay increases in contracts to be negotiated this fall.

In addition, Bobkiewicz says, the city, which has been spending roughly $30 million a year on capital improvement projects, has a backlog of close to $60 million in additional work that urgently needs to be done to repair its crumbling infrastructure — with no existing revenue source to fund those projects.

He says it’s not advisable to increase borrowing for capital projects because of the city’s already high debt level and doubts in financial markets about all municipal debt which is expected to result in higher interest rates.

To begin to tackle the project backlog, Bobkiewicz is proposing that the city shift $2 million in general fund revenues to the capital improvement budget in each of the next two years.

The rising costs combined with starting to tackle the project backlog, he says, means the city is likely to need to cut $3.4 million from its 2012 budget and $5.2 million in 2013 to avoid increasing taxes.

And he says that after years of tax increases exceeding the rate of inflation, further tax hikes would only increase the “flight of residents and businesses from Evanston.”

Despite the construction of hundreds of new housing units in Evanston during the past decade, and assumptions that the city’s population was growing, recently released census figures show essentially no change in the city’s population from 2000 to 2010.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Capital Improvement Budget

    If residents could have an informed discussion about specific capital improvement projects and detailed budgets of those projects, then it might allow the City Council to discuss it. In the last two years of budget discussions and seminars the participating populace has only been allowed to discuss the general operating fund, which has framed the debate into Library vs. Parks/Trees vs. Fire/Police vs. Water/Sewer vs. Health, which departments to lose jobs and resources. If instead we were given the tools to effectively debate the merits of certain projects within the departments (firing ranges, lakefront walking paths, new sewer mains, etc.) we could prioritize replacing one hundred year old sewer mains over, say, improving bike paths along the lakefront for the three year window of economic disturbance in which we seem to be stuck. We could make the decision that buying a new recycling truck now (not saying we need one, just a hypothetical) is a more fiscally responsible choice than repairing a certain stretch of sidewalks.

    We obviously need to extend the timeframe of our budget discussions as the staff and council are doing, because given more time and awareness, we can deal with more complex issues, like creating a three- or five-year budget plan so we're not lurching from one deficit to another.

  2. Our problems like big cities—will we take bold steps to fix ?

    Tuesday March 22, Charlie Rose had a panel of big city mayors to discuss problems their cities face.  It is worth watching [repeated WYCC 5PM Wedn. March 23 and on http://www.charlierose.com for several days].
    Unfunded pensions and  benefits for public employees from decades of over promising was obviously a topic, as was having to move from defined benefit to defined contribution.
    Also extra taxes on the rich [they can just move out], state funding of cities [way behind], federal funding [they take a lot, return little and expect everyone to be grateful], crime [poor education and community guidance to prevent and then find jobs when they get out of jail—cost much more to keep in jail than prevent in first place], infrastructure and things to draw business  and public to the city and then build the city [people are moving back to cities and more public transportation needed which is also more environmental than cars on highways], poor education, immigration esp. of highly skilled workers and those going through our colleges.
    The last two items made me think.   We need immigration of the highly skilled/educated because Americans want to get MBA and law degrees—not science and engineering degrees.  We would be much better off to develop our own talent but until that attitude changes and schools start developing science talent, universities and business depends on foreign talent.    The US has the best graduate schools but not the best colleges—many foreign colleges regard American colleges as making up for high school.  As most know NU got a lot of bad publicity over the sex education class recently.   Can you imagine an Indian, Chinese or students from many other countries  wasting their time, education credits and money on such a course.   Certainly the parents would not stand for it and the student would probably not be able to sit down for a month !.  But then again blue collar American students and parents probably would not abide with that either—they more likely appreciate what an expensive education costs and a good education will do for them getting ahead in life.

    1. Charlie Rose show with city mayors

      I think every taxpayer should see that show.  Also of note in the show was unanimous agreement that you do NOT sell off your assets in a time of economic downturn.  While selling off public assets seems to be the short term budget stop gap du jour,  Mayor Bloomberg (not exactly a liberal, and a very shrewd businessman) pointed out that our nation's greatest physical assets–power plants, highway systems, were all built during recessions.  He stated that economic downturns are a great time to invest in permanent assets because the acquisition costs are so low, and the potential return much greater.  He was saying that now is the time to invest in the future.  Unfortunately, the thinking in many seats of power goes in exactly the opposite direction.

  3. Another battle with public unions loom and the unions will win

    The Evanston City Council should eliminate the Evanston Township Assessor's Office. It is a duplicative service.

    Bonnie Wilson, an Evanston Democrat party board member who works part-time and schedules her own hours as the township assessor, is now trying to have the city permit her to receive a PENSION!!!!!

    Last year, the City Council voted to boost the Evanston Township Assessor's budget 80 percent. City fiscal crisis? What fiscal crisis?

    Another budget cut suggestion would be to layoff some Evanston firefighters who have survived this Recession unscathed.

    Fat chance. Because Wally B. and the City Council last year agreed to allow an arbitrator to decide any Evanston firefighter layoffs. This happened after the city laid off three Evanston firefighters in budget cuts. However, the Evanston Fire Union got an arbitrator to declare the layoffs as unfair labor practices and the fire union sued the city. Wally B. and the Council settled out of court, agreeing to rehire the firefighters and allow an arbitrator to decide any future layoffs.

    Does anyone remember all the personal attacks against Wally B. after the firefighter layoffs? It was brutally ugly and intimidating.  Even if the city wanted to layoff firefighters it would have to convince the arbitrator.

    How about closing down one of the two Evanston fire stations on Central Street? The city could close one of the Central Street fire stations after negotiating a tri-city fire coverage agreement with WIlmette and Skokie as is done in cost-saving measures in other hard-hit cities. But then the city would have to hope an arbitrator would allow the Council to make such cuts. Ain't that a hoot – we elect aldermen but unelected arbitrators run the show.

    We are five years into a Recession with consistent revenue decline and every year the city has raised taxes and fees while public employees got their annual raises.  And every year the City Council fails to make the hard decisions that have an impact in the budget. The biggest part of the budget is labor. Yet, Evanston firefighters not only keep their jobs they get overtime pay and pay raises.

    Last year, the city laid off about 42 employees, some non-union, but then spent about $1 million to hire 20 more unionized city employees to run the new 311 call center.

    Mark my word, when Wally B. negotiates the union contract with city employees the unions will get their cost of living pay increases. I base this on past negotiations the city has had with public unions. In fact, the mayor last year appointed the president of the Evanston city employees on the budget task force designed to make budget cut recommendations.

    And in all this, Evanston taxpayers get deeper in debt to pay off the public pensions that is the costliest ticket item and is growing exponentially. The pensions could bankrupt Evanston and many other local government entities.

    Other ideas:

    * Privatize ambulance and garbage/recycling services.

    * Sell the 1817 Church Building, which the city had given away along with $200,000 to build a museum that was never built.

    * Permit the construction of a year-round lakefront restaurant

    * Demand the City Council be more business friendly and not micromanage or say publicly as one Evanston alderwoman did when she said a particular pub exploits women.

    * Stop buying residential property unless there is a specific, sensible and immediate plan of use.

    * Elect fiscal conservatives to the City Council who do not get public union campaign support


    1. The President of Evanston

      The President of Evanston City Employees was not on the Mayors Budget Task Force.

      Kevin Johnson

      President of Evanston City Employees Union

        1. In my opinion,

          Anonymous Al

          In my opinion, your false statement attempts to tarnish the memory of a good man who performed his duties as a long-time city worker and union leader faithfully with malice toward no one.  I knew Raymond for more than 20 years and I as well as many others are better for having told him.  Though Raymond has passed, his memory will endure.

          Ted L. Loda

  4. City’s Health Obligation for Public Employees ? Accounted for ?

    On the Charlie Rose panel, the NY mayor said cities are required to state what their pension obligation and funding is but that "no city states what their health [and welfare] obligation [or funding] is."  Sounded like it could not be true but none of the other mayors objected.

    What is Evanston's actuarially determined health and other benefits [other than pensions] to public employees and how well is it funded ?  E.g. direct health, disability, etc. that the city 'self-funds' and required insurance premium—both current and life time obligation.  This would apply to both current and retired public employees.  

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