The RoundTable regularly reports that City staff and the City Council consider the City to be in the midst of a budget crisis, requiring either a serious cut to services or a significant increase in revenue, with the most likely potential source of additional revenue an increase in property taxes. Sensing the lack of capacity to absorb another large tax increase, particularly on the heels of the School District 65 referendum that raised property taxes by almost 6%, City Council and staff have for months talked about service cuts.
The latest effort is perhaps the most wide-reaching yet, as staff presented the initial results of a Priority Based Budgeting session undertaken by a committee composed of management-, but not director- level City staff that ranked and prioritized City programs.
Staff identified all programs and services provided by the City. The list stretched to 152. In evaluating those 152 programs and services, staff used “two sets of measures,” said Senior Management Analyst Kate Lewis-Lankin. First, staff “captured metrics including whether a program was mandated to be provided by the State or federal government and its level of cost recovery,” i.e. whether the program paid for itself or at least came close. Second, staff held each program up to stated City Council goals.
Evanston’s committee worked with the City staff of Boise, Idaho, a city apparently in the midst of a similar exercise.
Each program or service was assigned a score by the staff committee. About half were pulled from the list, either because they are essential, such as police and fire services, or because they pay for themselves, such as parking enforcement or the administration of federal grants.
Another 24 programs were identified for “right-sizing,” meaning they are programs for which increased fees or other tweaks could push them onto the “safe” list.
That left “54 programs not required” by any other government entity and “on the bottom half of the staff list” after meetings and rankings, according to the described metrics. (See sidebar for the list of programs on the chopping block.)
The City now plans to place the resulting list in the hands of the public. Using a survey available online, in paper, and by phone via 311, as well as a budget workshop scheduled for May 24, the City is asking residents to pick from the 54 lowest-scoring City services and programs and create two lists: 10 that should be kept at all costs, and 10 that residents are willing to see eliminated, because such services are available elsewhere or simply should not be a priority.
The list provided at the April 30 City Council meeting did not include any reference to the cost of programs or the savings that could result. “There will be costs” added before the survey goes live, which is anticipated to be May 10, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, asked if the City would consider splitting off the City’s parks department and to form a separate government entity that would own and manage the parks, with taxing authority. She did not receive any support.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, asked for a memo from Equity and Empowerment Coordinator Patricia Efiom explaining how “an equity lens was used in the process” of identifying programs.
Overall, everyone seemed to focus on the data used. Residents and aldermen need “more information if we’re asking people to rank things,” said Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward. People need to know how much money, and as a result how much tax burden could be avoided, by cutting a program.
At the request of Ald. Fiske, the survey process will extend into June, and results will be presented to Council during its June 18 meeting.
PRCS*: City-Sponsored Special Events
CD*: Contractor Licensing
PRCS: Athletic programming
Health: Community Health
PRCS: Summer Food Program/Child Nutrition Program/Congregate Meal Program
CD: Divvy Bikes
PRCS: Community Services/Youth Engagement
PRCS: Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center
PRCS: Noyes Cultural Arts Center
PRCS: Indoor/Outdoor Recreation Programs
PRCS: Summer Camps
PWA*: Sports Field Maintenance
PRCS: Special Recreation Programs
CD: Long-range planning (comprehensive plan, area plans)
PRCS: Cultural Arts Programs
PWA: Special Assessment Alley Improvements
CD: Storefront Modernization Program
PRCS: Fleetwood-Jourdain Theater
PWA:Tree Preservation Permit Issuance and Enforcement
CD: Business Licensing
PWA: 50/50 Sidewalk Program
PRCS: Certificate of Rehab Programs
CMO*: Tax Assessment Advocacy
PWA: Special Refuse Pickups
PWA: Permits for Block Parties, Moving Vans and Dumpsters
CMO: Administrative Adjudication
CD: Sign Permits and Inspection Services
Fire: Public Education/Community Engagement
PRCS: Recreation Center Bus Program
AS*: School Crossing Guards
Health: Vital Records – Birth and Death Certificates
PWA: Lakefront and Beach Maintenance and Cleaning
CMO: Community Arts Administration
CMO: Revenue and Collections – Passport
PWA: Annual Dredging for Boat Launch and Harbor
PWA: Twice Annual Bulk Pickups
PWA: Business District and Park Refuse Pickup and Disposal
Health: Social Services (Victim Advocacy)
CD: Historic Preservation Review
PWA: Dutch Elm Disease Control
CD: Mental Health Board
PWA: Public Art Installation Support
AS: Human Resources – Training
PWA: Special Event Support
PRCS: Subsidized Taxi Cab Coupon Program
CMO: Boards, commission, and committee administration by resolution/ordinance
PWA: Engineering for Parks and Facilities Projects
CMO: Revenue and Collections – Real Estate Transfer Stamps
CMO: Revenue and Collections – Wheel Tax
PWA: Bike Infrastructure Maintenance
PWA: Tree Trimming, Removal and Planting, and Evaluations
Police: Police Building maintenance
PWA: Playground Equipment Maintenance and Repairs
Health: Vacation Rental Permit and Administration (Airbnb)
*Parks, Recreation and Community Service – Community Development – City Manager’s Office – Public Works Administration – Administrative Services