As part of the City’s budgeting process for 2019, the City evaluated 152 programs that it provides using five measures: whether the program is mandated by federal, state or local law; whether the program paid for itself; whether the demand for the program is stable or increasing or decreasing; whether other entities could provide the services provided through the program; and what portion of the community is served by the program.

Staff also took into account whether a program furthers City Council’s goals, which are investing in City infrastructure and facilities, enhancing community development and job creation, expanding affordable housing options, furthering police/community relations, and stabilizing long-term City finances.

For “Equity,” the sole question was “Does the program benefit historically underrepresented or disadvantaged populations?”

City staff scored the programs using these guidelines and came up with a list of 46 programs which the City could potentially cut to save expenses and balance its budget for 2019.

Between May 10 and June 7, community members had the opportunity to provide input on the 46 programs and to select their top 10 programs to keep and their top 10 programs to eliminate. 

A total of 3,304 residents participated in this survey, 2,852 of whom submitted results online and 452 filled out a paper survey.

Top 10 List to be Saved

On June 18, Ashely King, budget and finance administrator, presented the results of the survey to City Council. The first question of the survey asked: “Please select the 10 programs that you believe to be the most important for the City to provide.”

The top 10 programs, their net cost, a brief description of the program, and the percent of respondents who included the program in their top 10 list, are listed below:

• Mental Health Board ($750,931), provides grants to organizations providing for the mental health and welfare of residents – 63%

• Youth and Young Adult Services ($940,844), violence interruption, alternative recreation, substance abuse treatment placement, emergency housing placement and other services – 60%

• Summer Food Program/Child Nutrition/Congregate Meal Program ($53,129), provides food programs, including free breakfast and lunch for youth in the summer, donation-based senior meals – 57%

• Social Services (Victim Advocacy) ($356,289), assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence – 57%

• Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program ($602,314), provides skills and workforce opportunities for Evanston youth, ages 14-18 – 49%

• School Crossing Guards ($461,791) part-time crossing guards at 52 intersections – 47%

 • Special Recreation Programs ($256,476), serves children and adults with disabilities – 35%

• Community Health ($266,476) works with community members to organize health education and wellness programs – 34%

• Animal Control ($271,039), captures stray animals, controls nuisance wildlife – 33%

• Minority/Women/Evanston-Based Enterprise & Local Employment Program ($140, 940), administers the MWEBE and LEP programs – 30%

Top 10 List for Reduction/Elimination

The second question of the survey asked: “Please choose 10 programs that you believe the City should consider for reduction/elimination.” 

The top 10 responses to this question, the net cost, a brief description of the program, and the percentage of respondents who included the program on their top ten list to reduce or eliminate are as follows:

• Divvy Bikes ($278,654), bike share program – 54%

• Vacation Rental Permit and Administration ($24,639), licensing for rental units offered for less than 30 days – 51%

• Storefront Modernization Program ($99,980), small grants to improve appearance of street-level buildings – 46%

• Revenue and Collections – Passport services ($15,473), serves as U.S. passport acceptance facility – 36%

• Public Art Installation Support ($105,121), installation and removal of public art – 34%

• Sign Permits and Inspection Services ($24,639), ensure signs meet standards – 33%

• Boards, Commissions, and Committee Administration ($293,777), staffing for 22 standing committees – 33%

• Community Arts Administration ($214,656), coordinates the creation and installation of public art – 29%

• Special Assessment Alley Improvements ($168,280), oversight of the 50/50 special assessment alley program – 27%

• Annual Dredging for Boat Launch and Harbor ($23,016), removal of sediment within the launch area – 26%

A Comprehensive Review

Kimberly Richardson, the Deputy City Manager, said City staff will take a look at programs that were part of the survey but are not social service programs. Staff will examine the services provided, the policies, and the revenue sources, she said.

Ms. Richardson said she will be leading a committee that will conduct a comprehensive review of all social service programs, including those that are on the top 10 list of the programs to preserve. The committee will be composed of staff from the Library; the Health Department, the Parks, Recreation and Community Service Department; the Community Development Department; the Police and Fire Departments; and the City Manager’s office.

“The object is not to focus on budget reductions, but service delivery and resource allocations, making sure we are meeting the needs of our community of all populations,” Ms. Richardson said. “We will inventory all our services from every department … and are looking at who is being served by the programs and who is not being served by the programs and figure out why is a gap there.”

Ms. Richardson said the committee will also look at service delivery and duplication, taking into account external partners, and whether there are “external resources we can utilize.” She added that they will also look at whether departments are working in “silos” and whether working together in collaboration would be a better way to utilize the City’s resources. 

The goal is to present Council with a completed report on July 30, said Ms. Richardson.

Patricia Efiom, the City’s Equity and Empowerment Coordinator, said the committee will use an “equity lens” in conducting its review of each program. She added that there was a need to engage the most underserved groups in the City, pointing out that only 8.5% of the survey respondents identified as Black/African American, while Black/African Americans make up about 18% of Evanston’s population.  

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, pointed out, though, that 36% of the survey respondents did not answer the question about their race. Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said there was “a tremendous effort to get members of the Black community to respond.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the City would look at additional ways to reach out and engage people in the next few months. In addition, he said, staff plans to undertake another round of public outreach after he releases a proposed budget in early October.

While Ms. Richardson said the object of the comprehensive review of social programs is not to focus on budget reductions, in a June 18 memo to City Council, Mr. Bobkiewicz and Hitesh Desai, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer, said, the committee’s report on social services will be “part of the 2019 budget process to ensure the City is able to meet the community needs working within the budgetary resources.”

At Ald. Braithwaite’s urging, on June 18, Council agreed to remove the youth intervention program and the summer jobs program from the list of programs to be examined for possible cuts, but did not remove any other programs from the list. Mr. Bobkiewicz’s memo indicated that the Evanston Cradle to Career Initiative was added to the list.

By Ward:  Almost 40% of the respondents were from the sixth, seventh and ninth wards; 31% were from the second, third and fourth wards; and 24% were from the first, fifth, and eighth wards. The balance did not answer the question.

By Gender:  48.5% of the respondents identified themselves as female, 25.9% as male; and 25.6% did not answer the question.

By Age:  5% were age 30 or younger; 32% were ages 31-50; 28% were ages 51-70; and 9% were age 71 or older; 26% did not answer. 

By Race:  50% identified as White/Caucasian; 8.5% identified as Black/African-American; 1.8% identified as Hispanic/Latino; 3.5% chose other options; and 36.2% did not answer.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...