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The Evanston Township budget, required by law to pass in June for a fiscal year that began in April, finally passed City Council (sitting as Trustees of the Township) on Sept. 26. One chapter in the ongoing saga that is the Evanston Township closes for now, while another – a decision as to whether to dissolve the township entirely – remains open.
The final sticking point to this year’s budget concerned a memorandum prepared by former City Director of Administrative Resources Joellen Earl identifying about $85,000 in savings in the Township’s budget. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asked Township Supervisor Patricia Vance which of the proposals she had pursued.
For several proposals, Ms. Vance said, it was too late in the year to change course. “I cannot think of some of the other things put in there for cost savings,” she said. Pressed by Ald. Grover, Ms. Vance continued to say she needed more time and that the year was too far underway for significant changes.
“The only way to reduce spending is to reduce the town allocation,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. Historically over the years the town has overtaxed its citizens, she said. It is not difficult to balance a budget built upon too high a tax levy, she said.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, agreed with Ms. Vance that it was too late for most of the cost savings proposed. But she urged the Township to implement most or all of the proposals in the next budget. It ultimately passed 6-2 with alds. Grover and Rainey voting no.
And then confusion descended upon Council Chambers. Ald. Grover and Ms. Vance wondered which budget, this year’s or last, was in place at the present time. Neither seemed sure. Trustees wondered aloud about the salary of the deputy assessor, proposed to be raised by more than 10 percent, before Ald. Holmes reminded the Trustees that she had been outvoted and the raise had passed. Still, no one seemed sure whether the raise had gone into effect yet.
Discussions about Township dissolution only deepened the confusion. A memorandum from Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar suggested that the City seek guidance from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and State Senator Jeff Schoenberg about possible dissolution, but what exactly Council sought confused everyone.
Ald. Rainey read from the proposed letter to Sen. Schoenberg, which asked who would be the Township Assessor and the Township Supervisor if there was no township.
“Why would we need either?” she asked.
“We should keep moving this forward,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
“I’ll move that we keep moving this forward, whatever ‘this’ is,” said Ald. Rainey.
“I’m not clear on what we’re moving forward to do,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, adding that he was frustrated and confused.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, then suggested, “Maybe we should figure out what we’re doing.” General agreement emerged that the Council was seeking guidance from Sen. Schoenberg and Atty General Madigan on dissolution issues.
Blank and tired looks aside, the Council seemed satisfied and voted 7-1 to “keep this moving forward,” with Ald. Braithwaite making a point of publicly voting “nay.”
A follow-up Township meeting has been scheduled for Oct. 24, though it is unclear whether there will be answers from any of the sources from which guidance has been sought.