Although the City Manager’s proposed budget is not due to be presented to members of City Council until Dec. 31, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz released on Dec. 18 a preview of how he would reduce expenses and restructure the organization at the Civic Center.

“The primary area for budget reductions is a decrease in personnel costs,” Mr. Bobkiewicz said in a memo to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl that he released to the press on Friday afternoon.  

The City is facing nearly a $10 million shortfall in the General Fund in the fiscal year 2010-11 budget, according to Mr. Bobkiewicz’s memo, with revenues projected at about $85 million and expenditures – if services were provided at the same level next year as this year – of about $94.5 million.

In his memo to Ms. Tisdahl, Mr. Bobkiewicz proposed about $7.2 million in expense reductions and $2.3 million in additional revenues. Reducing staff, closing the branch libraries and the City’s dental clinic, reducing certain police patrols, and requiring unpaid holidays and greater employee contributions are among his proposed expense reductions. The proposed increases in revenue would come from cash transfers from the Township of Evanston, reimbursements from the two school districts and increases in fees for solid-waste disposal.

The memo does not propose any increase in the City’s portion of the property tax.

Proposed Expense Reductions

Reductions in personnel costs are the primary source of the budget reductions, according to Mr. Bobkiewicz’s memo. It states, “I am proposing that the City eliminate 47.05 full time equivalent positions. This includes 19.1 vacant positions, 27.95 currently filled positions and will require the layoff of 36 permanent full-time and part-time employees. All employee layoffs would be effective February 28, 2010 [the day before the new fiscal year begins]. An additional 5 individuals who are filling temporary or contractual positions will also be laid off, and $435,000 in overtime costs in various departments is also proposed to be eliminated.”

In order to keep the number of eliminated positions to a minimum, Mr. Bobkiewicz also proposed the following adjustments for fiscal year 2010-11:

  • No cost of living adjustments for the coming year
  • No merit increases for non-represented employees (step increases for represented employees would continue)
  • 5% increase to employee contributions for health care costs
  • All employees be required to take three City holidays without pay

“In addition, all department directors, the Assistant City Manager and I will take a 5 percent salary reduction beginning March 1, 2010,” he said.

The City Manager also proposed eliminating the police department’s summer plan, its special patrol with the Northwestern Police Department of areas of off-campus housing and the downtown weekend enforcement.

In addition to closing the dental clinic and the branch libraries, the City Manager proposes to reduce community purchased services by $200,000 and cut funding to the Community Media Center by $200,000.

In addition to the $9,532,000 in adjustments to address the projected deficit, Mr. Bobkiewicz also recommends that the City Council consider an additional $1.5 million in reductions and adjustments, which would be used to help offset the liabilities in the firefighters and police officers pension funds or to increase the balances in the General Fund reserves.  

Adjustments to Revenues

The proposed budget recommends a total of about $2.3 million in revenue adjustments. “The most significant new revenue is the increase in Sanitation Service fees approved by the City Council on December 7,” said Mr. Bobkiewicz. The memo proposes charging an additional $950,000 in yard waste collection fees, and an additional $500,000 in refuse collection fees.

Mr. Bobkiewicz’ memo also recommends transferring $400,000 from the Township for community purchased services and charging School Districts 65 and 202 a combined total of $290,000 as reimbursement for school resource police officers provided to the schools.

The memo also proposes increasing revenues by $200,000 through the Parking Structure PILOT.

Objectives and Reorganization

Mr. Bobkiewicz named three primary objectives for change in the upcoming fiscal year – focusing on customer services; obtaining additional resources to deliver services to the Evanston community and operating more efficiently and effectively.  

According to his memo, “customer service” entails such things as how residents receive service and how the City communicates with residents about services. In “obtaining additional resources,” Mr. Bobkiewicz said the City will work to obtain additional state and federal resources, utilize volunteers and raise money from the private sector to support City services.”  To implement the objective of operating more efficiently and effectively, Mr. Bobkiewicz proposed reorganizing operations “to better serve our residents while living within our budgetary means.”

Among the proposed “reorganizations” are interdepartmental transfers of authority and jurisdiction, consolidating certain services under one department and changing the names and purviews of some departments. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services would be the Health Department; the Department of Parks/Forestry and Recreation would be combined with Facilities Management to be the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. The Community Development Department would be the Community and Economic Development Department. A new Administrative Services Department would be composed of the existing Finance Department, Human Resources Department, Purchasing Division and BPAT, which would be called the Information Technology Division.  

Mr. Bobkiewicz said the City Council’s 12 goals, identified in September; the Community Budget workshops and the feedback received from employees informed the process of identifying areas in which to make the proposed cuts.

“I am mindful that the announcement of these reductions is stressful at any time of year, but is especially so during the holiday season,” said the memo.  

“I hope that the information provided by announcing them before the end of December will help everyone on the City staff understand their status and to plan for the coming year,” he said.   

The City Council has scheduled its first budget workshop for Jan. 9. At that and subsequent workshops, Council members will discuss which proposals, if any, they will approve. The City must adopt a balanced budget by March 1, 2010. The Mayor holds veto power, and it takes a two-thirds majority to override a mayoral veto.  

Summary of Expense Adjustments

The table below gives a summary of the proposed expense adjustments on a city-wide basis or by department: 

City-wide Reductions          $1,640,000
City Manager’s Office:           $165,000
BPAT                                   $642,263
Finance/Human Resources     $488,977
Community Development      $277,000
Police                                  $493,500
Fire                                     $433,000
Health & Human Services       $393,000
Public Works                        $881,000
Library                                 $822,643
Parks and Recreation            $987,789
Total                                $7,224,172

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...