Although most people only told aldermen to not cut their favorite program, Evanston residents offered more ideas for budget savings than aldermen did at Saturday’s public hearing on the 2011 budget.

Jason Hays

Jason Hays, an Evanston firefighter who lives at 712 Dobson St., suggested that the city hold off on planting new trees for three years, a move he said would save $1 million without diminishing the quality of life in the community.

Hays also suggested replacing city’s branch libraries with a less expensive bookmobile equipped to provide mobile internet access. That, he suggested, could serve all of the city, rather than just the two neighborhoods that now have branch libraries.

Lori Summers, who lives at 1410 Wesley Ave., said she would like to see no increase in property taxes, and to achieve that goal, services have to be cut.

Lori Summers

The city manager’s proposed budget, even after closing a $3 million gap mostly with expense reductions, would result in a city property tax levy increase of about 4 percent. 

Summers said she grew up in a town with only one library and doesn’t consider the branches to be an essential service that should be preserved.

Kevin O’Connor of 1227-1/2 Isabella St. suggested cutting spending on replacing city cars and trucks and said that, with senior citizens not getting a Social Security cost of living increase for a second straight year, there was no need to provide a pay boost to non-union city employees.

Junad Rizki, 2784 Sheridan Road, said the city should fill some positions in the police and fire departments with part-time contract employees to save on pension and other costs.

Aldermen had far less time to speak at the hearing than the two-and-a-half hours devoted to public comment, but the only proposal from an alderman for budget cuts came from Jane Grover, 7th Ward.

She suggested it would be a “no brainer” to move Evanston Township offices to the Civic Center to save the more than $100,000 a year paid to rent the township’s current office space at Main Street and Dodge Avenue.

Among the people who offered no suggestions for how to close the budget gap, nearly a dozen demanded continued funding for branch libraries.

Eight, mostly people who work for private agencies that receive city funds for mental health programs, argued against cutting their funding. No cuts in that program are actually planned, but confusing presentation of early budget numbers led advocates to believe there would be cuts.

Three speakers, including the affected employee, opposed the elimination of one of three city jobs that deal with services for the disabled.

Jan Weeks of 2040 Brown Ave. was concerned about the elimination of the disability coordinator’s job. 

And there were calls to not eliminate the position of zoning administrator, not reduce funding for elm tree injections and not cut staffing for recreation programs and the ecology center.

Budget discussions are scheduled to resume at a special City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15. The aldermen are scheduled to adopt the budget Nov. 22.

Related story

City Council budget hearing live coverage

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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