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Manager outlines township takeover plan

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City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that, if voters decide to abolish Evanston Township, the services the township provides will be picked up by the city and will better coordinated with existing city programs.

In a response to a letter from the League of Women Voters asking for details of the planned takeover, Bobkiewicz — who's now also serving as acting township supervisor — prepared a memo that reads in part:

Program operations

  • Current Township activities related to General Assistance, Emergency Assistance and Assessment will be continued. It is my plan that General Assistance and Emergency Assistance will continue at the same level as provided by Township. With the resignation of Township Supervisor, I am still assessing current versus budgeted staffing levels for General Assistance and Emergency Assistance.
    As these functions are now under my responsibility, I will work now with Township staff to identify ways to partner their existing work with work done in our Health, Community Development, and Parks, Recreation and Community Services Departments to provide more comprehensive assistance to Township residents in need. The City would work to enhance the General Assistance and Emergency Assistance services without expending additional resources.
  • Property assessment work would continue. One staff member would be assigned to continue the property tax assessment advocacy work currently provided by the Township Assessor. This staff member would either continue from Township or be a new hire. This work would not be absorbed by existing City staff. I anticipate that this work would continue at approximately the same level as current.
  • City staff has worked with Township staff over the last several months during the move to the Civic Center to identify savings in overhead and administrative support costs. This work will continue over the next several months. If the Township is dissolved, I anticipate that there would be additional savings identified through further sharing of overhead and administrative costs. These savings would include goods and services as well as further reduction in staffing associated with administrative support.
  • I am proposing that General Assistance and Emergency Assistance activities become part of the Health Department. I believe there is an opportunity to once again create a Human Services Division within the Health Department. I am asking Health Director Evonda Thomas-Smith to work with me as well as Community Development Director Mark Muenzer and Deputy City Manager/Interim Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Joe McRae to hold a series of community meetings in November and December to review the re-creation of a Human Services Division and potential existing City services which may join General Assistance and Emergency Assistance in that Division and report back to the City Council in January, 2014.
  • The Property Assessment assistance function would become part of the Administrative Services Department Finance Division.
  • No Township activities would be contracted out at this time.

Funding and savings

  • Currently the Township is funded under two separate line item levies on the Property Tax: Town Fund and General Assistance. I am proposing that this be reduced to one levy: General Assistance. This levy would include costs of operating the General Assistance and Emergency Assistance programs. In addition, I am proposing that the full cost of the Mental Health Board grants be included in this levy rather than be split between the General Assistance Levy and General Fund Levy. The costs of the Assessor program would be shifted to the General Fund.
  • All other miscellaneous grants that have been made by the Township to the City (support for Summer Youth Employment Program, Community Picnic) would be funded in the City’s General Fund.
  • Savings anticipated with these changes include the elimination of office rental costs (which began in September, 2013) and reduced administrative costs. These cost savings will total approximately $225,000 a year based on the most recent audited financial statements. A more precise savings amount will be known when I report back to the City Council in January, 2014.

Personnel

  • Every effort will be made to continue employment of Township staff after a dissolution either providing former Township services or at other duties in the City of Evanston.
  • Once Township staffing is settled in the next few weeks with the resignation of the Township Supervisor, no new staff would be hired to carry out current Township programs after dissolution. The elected positions of Township Supervisor and (after January 1, 2014) Township Assessor will likely be filled by Acting positions until election. These positions would be eliminated as part of Township dissolution.

Timing

  • Work will continue to transition overhead and administrative support services from the Township to the City prior to a dissolution election. If dissolution is approved, a final transition to City provision of services would occur over 60-90 days. Any savings accrued in FY 2014 would be reflected in FY 2015 levy. In addition, the City Council would also have to decide disposition of fund balances in Township funds. It would be my recommendation to retain a reserve balance similar to the City’s General Fund and spend down remaining balances in lieu of levy increases.

Evaluation

  • Regular reporting of General Assistance and Emergency Assistance data will begin immediately and continue after any dissolution. Comparison of levy for General Assistance over years will be a measure on cost savings. We will also add performance measures for General Assistance, EmergencyAssistance and Assessor to City’s comprehensive performance measures.

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