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Manager outlines need for more city cuts

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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.

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