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With Evanston aldermen in the midst of trying to decide how to trim next year’s city budget to match revenues, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz released a report this morning that looks at the daily cost of running city departments and how much of that cost is covered by revenue those departments bring in from fees.

The 21-page report looks at seven city departments. It excludes the library and allocates the costs of the city manager’s office and the administrative services department among the other operating units.

Bobkiewicz says the report was prepared at the request of some aldermen.

The report divides total costs for four units — fire, parks, police and public works — by 365 days. But it divides total costs for three other departments — law, community development and health — by only 260 days, on the premise that employees in those units generally only work weekdays.

For the charts in this story we’ve recalculated the figures for those three units onto a 365 day basis to make the daily figures comparable to those of the other four.

The report also broke out figures for the Public Works Agency into its four main operating units.

That breakdown indicates that the water, sewer and solid waste funds generally cover their costs from fees they charge, but the department’s general fund operations fall far short of that goal.

One use aldermen might make of the report is to try to bring revenues more in line with costs by raising fees.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, for example, provides many fee-based programs — but currently the fees those programs bring in only cover about half of the department’s costs.

By contrast the Community Development Department generates more revenue for the city than it costs — with revenue raked in from building permits and other fees.

The revenue figures shown don’t include city-wide revenue that support all departments — such as property and sales taxes.

Later this month aldermen are to get reports on possible budget cuts to two of the most costly departments — Fire and Police.

While the Fire Department gets significant revenue from insurance payments for ambulance runs, the Police Department brings in far less revenue — mostly from charges for special details.

Efforts to make public safety departments come closer to paying for themselves have sometimes proved perilous for other communities.

For example, turning the Police Department into a revenue source through aggressive ticketing policies is one of the factors said to have led to protests and riots in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Just curious why the library
    Just curious why the library and other departments were omitted. The library board in particular has been running amok for a long time.

    1. Library

      Hi Def,

      Under state law, the only control the City Council has over the library’s budget is to refuse to approve a tax levy that exceeds the referendum-approved cap.

      It lacks the line-item control that it has over spending for all other city departments.

      Spending for the other two units not listed — the city manager’s office and the administrative services department — was allocated to the other departments for this report.

      — Bill

      1. Thanks for clarifying Bill
        Too bad about the lack of control over the library.

  2. Duplication costs
    You have to wonder how much of the costs are from duplication of services.
    Each group thinks they are the only one providing and able to provide services. And of course allow them to have big budgets, hire more staff, seem important and gain something for the resume.
    How many job programs ? How many social services–the library seems to think it has to be the main [and only qualified] to provide counseling, job training, and many other things—-all the while wanting to remodel, open branches—but cut back on books and magazines.
    The Council and Manager don’t have any control—if you cry enough “we are neglected” will get you a new agency and $$$.

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