Council To Pass Annual Budget Despite Clashes

Ketul Patel

By Ketul PatelThe Daily Northwestern

The Evanston City Council is scheduled to vote on the city budget at tonight’s meeting.

The council must pass the proposed 2007-08 budget by the end of this month, and it will go into effect March 1.

The city faces a deficit of about $3 million for this year. The budget attempts to fix that deficit, Director of Finance Matt Grady told The Daily at the Feb. 19 meeting.

The total operating budget proposed by City Manager Julia Carroll was $186,769,007, representing a 0.26 percent increase from the 2006-07 budget. This increase is the lowest increase in the overall budget in at least 10 years, Carroll said in a Jan. 6 meeting. After aldermen amended the budget, the total operating budget comes to $188,161,769.

Carroll also said at the Jan. 6 meeting that she wants to make Evanston stronger in the long term by overhauling the city’s structure and filling the gap in city funds.

Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st) said she still would like to see parts of the budget changed before it is approved. She said she opposed a move by the council to move money from the water reserve fund to the general reserve fund to relieve taxpayers’ burden.

“I’m sure it will pass before the evening’s passed,” she said. “I didn’t support the transferring of money from the water reserve fund to the general reserve fund. I don’t think it’s good budget policy to use one-time revenue in that way.”

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) said in a Jan. 27 budget workshop that this budget included the most extensive cuts he had seen.

The budget proposed by Carroll would eliminate more than 26 full-time positions – including 10 that are currently vacant – and add nine new employees. These new positions include a youth coordinator, a plan reviewer for the Community Development Department and a civil engineer for public works.

Jean-Baptiste has said in previous meetings he was concerned about the loss of jobs for the city. These losses should not be forgotten when considering whether to cut the branch libraries, he said.

The council also will vote on a planned development at 959 Dobson St. in south Evanston. The project consists of 33 condos in a five-story building, along with 45 parking spaces in a garage.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), whose ward includes the site, said at the Feb. 12 meeting she supported the project because the developers had cooperated with neighbors.

Aldermen also will vote on the West Side Master Plan, an attempt to revitalize Evanston’s underdeveloped West Side. It is a blueprint for the city in planning future development along an old railroad corridor.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) told The Daily on Jan. 21 that she supported the plan because it included resident input.

“The whole idea is to revitalize the West Side,” she said. “The plan helps set the guidelines in terms of what the community wants.”

Calls to several aldermen were not returned on Sunday.

Reach Ketul Patel at [email protected]