As a nearly three-hour budget workshop ended Monday night, Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d have revised budget proposals ready for aldermen by Wednesday.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz

As a nearly three-hour budget workshop ended Monday night, Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d have revised budget proposals ready for aldermen by Wednesday.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz

Based on comments from aldermen during the budget workshops, Bobkiewicz indicated his new plan would eliminate cuts to the injection program to protect trees against Dutch Elm disease and would scale back plans for the proposed 311 call center.

While some aldermen fully embraced the call center concept at Monday’s meeting, others expressed reservations about the cost of the program — suggesting that at minimum the city should start with a scaled down version of it.

The current plan would see the non-emergency call center operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. It would have an ongoing cost of nearly $700,000 a year.

Bobkiewicz said he believes the center will make the city more efficient in delivering services to residents — by providing a single point of contact for all services and a mechanism to directly funnel requests to workers who carry out the tasks.

Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, was among the aldermen suggesting the city can’t afford to spend as much as the city manager planned on the 311 center.

Now, Bobkiewicz said, requests often go through several layers of managers before getting to the people who actually do the job.

He said that the new system will also track all service requests and the responses to them, making it much easier than it is now to measure performance.

He said he expects to be able to develop “service level agreements” establishing response time standards for requests and track performance in meeting those goals.

But he agreed that the 311 center could start with fewer operating hours each week.

Supporters of full funding for the elm tree injection program appeared to have convinced aldermen that the program extends the life of the trees so much that it ultimately saves the city money by reducing the number of trees that have to be cut down each year.

Bobkiewicz said he also may have new plans Wednesday that could eliminate job cuts in some other areas of city operations. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Where my property tax money goes.

    Just received my second installment property tax bill. Both line items for D65 and D202 are substantially larger than the City of Evanston’s line item.

    Why isn’t there the same level of political activity over the City’s budget expressed over the schools’ budgets?

    1. Taxes and schools

      Hi John,

      That’s a good question. Want to start tracking school spending more closely?

      I’d suggest that one possible explanation for the different level of interest could be that the school boards are subject to state-imposed tax caps, while the city is not. Thus the city has more room to maneuver. Also the city has many more revenue streams that can be altered in a variety of ways, while the school districts are almost completely dependent on the property tax.

      Finally, everybody in town is a consumer of city services, to some extent, while for the most part only those people who currently have kids in school are vitally concerned about the schools.

      — Bill

  2. What are Dist 65 and 202 doing about budget reductions?

    Yes –  John Zbesko raises a good point !  What are Districts 65 and 202 doing to reduce costs?  Does anybody know? 

  3. 311 Center sounds like a waste of my money

    Whle we are cutting to the bone on every front in the City government, a 311 Center is being proposed.  What is the point of this system anyway? Because some people in this City can’t figure out who to call?  This is crazy!  The web is a good place to start.  The web site is an excellent source of information and clearly, much money has been spent getting it this way.  It is a great resource, but if you don’t have access to the web, you should be able to call the City Hall and get connected to the correct person, or have the correct person call you back if needed.  Still better, just take care of the issue and not have staff waste time with a call back unless clarification is needed.  Sounds like staff is not being managed correctly if they don’t know what to do with a caller or how to record the service request.  It sounds like a training issue to me!  If it is ‘after hours’, unless it is an emergency, it can wait until the office is open for business!  If it is an emergency, we have several crews (police, fire, streets, water)  to handle all after hours emergencies already.  What really is the point of this?

     

  4. An admission of incompetence

    Wally B claims Evanston needs 311 because too many calls for service are ignored by City employees.  The solution is simple.  Wally should have the employees trained on effective service delivery and then hold them accountable.  Instead Wally wants another layer of bureaucracy and makes  vague claims of improvements in service.  This is incompetence.

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