Compared to two nearby municipalities of similar size, Evanston spends nearly 18 percent more per capita for an equivalent set of city services.

If you’re planning to go to Saturday’s city budget workshop, you might want to keep that thought in mind.

Evanston Now dug through budget documents from Arlington Heights and Skokie as well as Evanston to reach that conclusion.

If you just looked at the bottom line of each budget, you’d think the disparity was much greater.

Evanston’s budget called for spending $203 million this year compared to $132 million in Arlington Heights and $118 million in Skokie.

That’s almost 63 percent more spending by Evanston than the average of the other two towns.

But Evanston provides library and park services that are provided by separate taxing districts in the other communities.

And Evanston generates revenue and incurs expenses selling water to other towns — something the others don’t do.

And Evanston has three big parking garages that both generate revenue and incur expenses that the other towns don’t.

Exclude all those factors and you’re left with a budget for Evanston across a comparable set of city services of about $163 million.

Divide the spending by the population of each community — listed in the latest Census Bureau data as 77,693 for Evanston, 73,399 for Arlington Heights and 66,620 for Skokie and you get the per capita figures.

They work out to $2,099 for Evanston, $1,799 for Arlington Heights and $1,767 for Skokie.

Where to find the documents

If you’d like to compare Evanston’s city budget to that of Arlington Heights and Skokie yourself, here’s where to find each community’s budget documents online.

  • Evanston budget. Select the link that says 2009-10 Adopted Budget.
  • Arlington Heights budget. Select the link that says 2009-10 Budget.
  • Skokie budget. Use the six links to download different sections of the 2010 Budget.

Workshop details

The first in a series of four Evanston city budget workshops this month will start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.

New City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the city is facing an $8 million shortfall between projected revenue and spending — by far the biggest gap in recent years. More information about the workshops is available on the city’s website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Evanston Budget—Oak Park would be better comparison
    I believe the Evanston budget is out of control but Oak Park and other suburbs bordering on Chicago would probably be a better comparison.
    Years ago Evanston and Oak Park had the highest tax rates in Cook County. Both border on Chicago and face the same issues—wanting to be middle class, integrated, etc. but having the crime in the ‘no mans land’ on the borders. Evanston also wants to be a university town, retirement community, center for every PC and liberal project that comes along, displayer of junk art just because someone thinks it is odd and therefore needs display, and so on.
    All this costs dollars—and eventually people moving out because it is not worth it, crime is high, taxes are high and generally the city is not worth all the hassle. Wilmette, Skokie and others benefit.

  2. Excellent reporting/analysis
    Excellent reporting/analysis here, Bill. Nicely done. This is the kinda stuff reporters just don’t do anymore.

    I believe someone should take a look at (FOIA) the City Manager’s expenses on his recent junkets to Washington DC and Springfield. Why are Evanston taxpayers footing his free vacation to go to DC when the man makes $185,000 a year?

    And why did he even need to go? He’s not an elected official. Did he go to carry Tisdahl’s bag? I thought there was a budget crisis with belt tightening? Does it apply to Wally or just lesser workers?

  3. Budget and Treatment of Businesses
    I hope when the council debates the budget, taxes and how they treat business [these and petty ordinances to punish them and NU] They consider Larry Page one of the founders of Google “His first jobs were at Advanced Management Systems in Washington, D.C., and then at a company called CogniTek in Evanston, Illinois.”

    How many Larry Pages are we losing because companies cannot afford Evanston. Look at the start-ups, software firms, hedge funds, etc. we have lost.
    Jobs lost, esp. when great minds go with them, don’t just hurt the middle and upper class, but the jobs of many who earn much less. Lots of people have gripes with NU, but here we have one of the top universities [and one of the top engineering schools] and the message we send to them is “try to set-up a business and we will fight you at every step [until you leave].”
    Not to mention manufacturing !

  4. Static costs
    I have to agree that I like the reporting on this issue. But my question is how much is the rise in spending been caused by static requirements i.e. pensions and labor contracts? A city cannot due anything about those automatic cost increases.

    The city negotiates its labor contracts, and it determines how many people to employ. The costs are not fixed.
    Hard to control? Perhaps.
    Requiring tough decisions about priorities? Yes.
    Calling for innovative ideas to improve efficiency? Sure.
    But, can’t do anything about it? No.
    — Bill

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