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Task force faces ‘brutal’ budget outlook

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told her budget task force tonight that Evanston’s short-term financial outlook is "brutal."

At the panel’s first meeting, the mayor said she’d like the group to come up with short-term recommendations for the budget the City Council must adopt in February as well as longer-term financial ideas.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told her budget task force tonight that Evanston’s short-term financial outlook is "brutal."

At the panel’s first meeting, the mayor said she’d like the group to come up with short-term recommendations for the budget the City Council must adopt in February as well as longer-term financial ideas.

"None of the things we’re spending money on are bad things," Tisdahl said, "and there’s a constituency for everything we’re doing."

She said she’d like the panel to consider cuts that might be made now, but later reinstated, and contrast those with cuts that once made, likely could not be restored.

The city faces a projected $8 million gap in its roughly $90 million general fund budget for next year.

Longer term, she said, the task force shold look at alternative, less expensive, ways to provide city services.

"People need to be creative," the mayor said, noting that "communities throughout the state are looking at other ways to provide fire services."

The mayor said she hopes the panel will finish its long-range planning project in six to nine months.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that schedule would make the panel’s recommendations available in time for another project he has in mind.

Bobkiewicz says he hopes to switch the city to a January to December fiscal year, from the current March through February calendar.

The current calendar stretches out to nearly two years the gap between when the city adopts a tax levy and when the taxes the levy is supposed to raise are actually paid by residents.

Bobkiewicz said he plans to begin the budget calendar switch after the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year that starts next March 1 is completed.

For the following fiscal year he plans to prepare the budget early, submitting it to the City Council by October 2010, instead of December. That budget would be for a 10-month year to start March 1, 2011.

Then the transition would be completed with a 12 month budget for the year period starting Jan. 1, 2012, that would be submitted to the City Council in October 2011.

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