Last week marked the end of face-to-face citizen engagement on the budget, but residents can still offer suggestions about how City money should be spent next year to their alderman or City staff in a variety of ways: on the web at www.cityofevanston.org/budget, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cityofevanston, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cityofevanston, by phone at 311, by mail to City Manager’s Office, 2100 Ridge Ave., 60201 or by Mindmixer: http://evanston.mindmixer.com/
The formal budget information session scheduled for Sept. 18 was cancelled because no residents showed up; it turned into an informal conversation between City staff and members of the press.
"The City is better off [for the coming budget] than we’ve been in any of the four years I’ve been here," said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. He said he anticipated that the City Council’s budget discussions "will not be so much about the operating expenses as about the capital budget."
Mr. Bobkiewicz said he anticipates no layoffs and no reductions in most City services. Assistant City Manager Martin Lyons said in the proposed budget, "You will see some new positions that were approved by City Council this year." One example is a third position for victim advocate at the Evanston Police Department.
So far, input from residents has been about capital improvement, Mr. Bobkiewicz said. "What we’ve taken away from some coffee shop [meetings] is a way to spend one-time monies. Investing money in trees and in street-surfacing are the two things I’ve heard."
One-time funds, said Mr. Lyons, will be spent on one-time projects, which are generally capital projects.
A second Council discussion has already begun about the amount to contribute to the fire and police pension funds. The City’s actuary, Tepfer Consulting Group, has recommended that the City contribute $6,239,481 to the Firefighters’ Pension Fund, and $8,358,924 to the Police Pension Fund in the upcoming budget.
That amount was approved by Timothy Schoolmaster of Police Pension Board and Deron Daugherty of the Fire Pension Board. Those amounts represent a reduction of about $137,000 from last year’s contributions to those pension funds – $35,000 less to the police pension fund and $102,000 less to the firefighters pension fund. Some Council members have said they favor contributing that amount; others have said they would favor a larger-than-recommended contribution, as was done in this year’s budget, to chip away at the unfunded liabilities in both funds.
Mr. Bobkiewicz says he plans on Oct. 11 to present City Council a proposed budget for fiscal year 2014. After that, there will be a Council budget discussion at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Council chambers. A capital tour for Council members is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Oct. 26. The truth-in-taxation hearing and the public hearing on the proposed FY2014 budget are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, and Council may adopt the budget on Nov. 18.
The City’s portion of the property tax bill is about 21 percent. By law, the City must adopt a balanced budget by Jan. 1, 2104, the beginning of the next fiscal year.