Evanston Tuesday night holds what could be among its last annual town meetings — if a bill now working its way through the state legislature becomes law.
The bill, SB1585, was introduced by Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston.
Originally proposed as a broader measure, Biss says it’s now been revised to only apply to Evanston Township. It has been unanimously approved by a Senate committee, and, Biss says, “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to pass it, though of course I can’t be certain of this.”
In the last legislative session a bill filed by then Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston that would have let residents of any coterminous township hold a vote to abolish that township was defeated after the Township Officials of Illinois lobbied against it.
The executive director of the township group, Bryan E. Smith, last week sent out a memo to township officials across the state urging them to oppose the Biss bill.
In an advisory referendum last year, Evanston voters by a 2-1 margin favored dissolving the township, despite efforts at a chaotic township meeting by a handful of township supporters to block the vote.
If the Biss bill passes, another referendum would have to be held for voters to decide whether they actually want to abolish the township and turn its responsibilities over to the city.
The township, which has a budget less than one percent as large as the city’s budget, primarily administers general assistance programs for the indigent.
The township spends almost as much in payroll costs and admistrative overhead to run the program as it disburses in benefits to general assistance clients.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has said he believes he could dramatically reduce those administrative costs if the city was given the job of providing those services, without reducing benefits to clients.
A financial report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting shows the township spent nearly $1.7 million last year on just under $1.4 million in revenue.
That had the effect of reducing the township’s fund balance to just under a year’s worth of operating expenses.
Town trustees, who also serve as Evanston aldermen, had criticized Township Supervisor Patricia Vance in the past for maintaining a fund balance of well over a year’s spending.
Vance, in response, had agreed to have the township pick up some payments to non-profit social agencies that previously had been funded by the city — which accounts for the decline in the fund balance this year.
The annual town meeting is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at the Civic Center.