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Objecting to an item in the proposed City budget for fiscal year 2015, Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes asked at the Oct. 25 budget meeting why the City planned to eliminate the service of issuing vital records. She asked whether the City could raise its rates for issuing birth and death certificates.
The City has been issuing these for several years and would still offer the service online from Cook County, according to a budget memo from Health Director Evonda Thomas-Smith. The charge is $10 for the first copy of a birth certificate and $2 for each additional copy; $15 for the first copy of a death certificate and $5 for each additional copy.
Ms. Thomas-Smith’s Oct. 22 memo also said in the current year the City anticipated $110,000 in revenues and $170,000 in expenses from vital records. About $10,000 of the revenues were from funeral licensing, which the Health and Human Services Department will continue. To date, the City has received only $70,000 in revenues from those two sources, according to the memo, and another $13,000 in revenues is anticipated, thus projecting about a $90,000 loss in revenues this year.
“Eliminating this service would be a savings of $86,549 when taking the current year estimate revenue into consideration,” Ms. Thomas-Smith’s memo concludes.
If the City opted to stop issuing vital records, residents would be able to obtain them online, by phone or by mail from the Cook County Clerk’s office for $15 for a birth certificate and $17 for a death certificate, with a lesser charge – $4 and $6, respectively – for additional copies. Birth and death certificates are also available at the Daley Center in Chicago; at the court houses in Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Markham and Bridgeview; and at the currency exchanges on Maple Avenue and on Prairie Avenue.
Ald. Holmes said she feels it is important for the City to continue these services because “people who need death certificates may not go online. For people in that situation the personal touch is important.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he felt most people came to Evanston for those services because the City’s rates are lower than those of Cook County. Were Evanston to increase its rates, he said, it is likely that it would lose customers.
“This is a service that I think Evanston residents need,” said Ald. Holmes. “I think Evanston residents would pay a higher fee because they wouldn’t want to have to pay for transportation to Chicago.”
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asked why people request vital records from the City. “Most are Evanston residents who have been coming here for years. The major constituents are Evanston residents – generations of families,” said Ms. Thomas-Smith. Mothers of newborns request birth certificates to get Social Security numbers for their infants, since the hospitals here do not issue them, she said. Funeral directors often request multiple copies of death certificates.
“You need death certificates, if you are poor, for insurance if you are going to bury your loved one,” said Ald. Holmes. “You don’t want to go online and pull up something when you’re in distress, so being able to have that one-to-one with another human being is very helpful.”
No action was taken at that meeting. The Council will continue its budget discussions at its Nov. 17 meeting, said Mr. Bobkiewicz, and adopt a budget at the Nov. 24 meeting.