Even as officials were preparing next year's Evanston Township budget, the general assistance caseload has soared from 150 to over 180 people.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who's also serving as acting township supervisor, presented a revised budget to the Human Services Committee tonight that anticipates an average of 200 clients next year, up from 175 in a budget draft prepared just a couple of weeks ago.
Under state law the township has to support as many eligible people as come through the door, Bobkiewicz said, and he's not entirely confident that there won't be more than 200 clients before 2014 is out.
He and the Human Services Committee members seemed to see the growing demand as positive — a sign that the move of township offices to the civic center and the resulting increased coordination between city and township staff has let more eligible people know that the township aid is available.
It's also possible that controversy over a proposal to dissolve the township and have the city take over its responsibilities has increased awareness about it.
Bobkiewicz proposed, and the committee approved, funding the expected increase in demand by further drawing down the township's reserves — increasing the withdrawals to over $600,000 from $315,000 in the previous budget draft.
With that decision, the township budget will not require an increase in the tax levy, which will remain the same as it was last year.
But with the continuing decline the reserves, the tax levy is likely to have to be increased in 2015 if the number of general assistance clients remains at the new, higher levels.
The committee approved the revised budget totaling just under $1.9 million. It now goes to the full town board for approval expected at a meeting next Monday.