Evanston’s finishes fiscal year in ‘stable’ condition

Ani Ajith

Evanston is projected to end the 2010-2011 fiscal year with a deficit of $1.5 million, prompting City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to diagnose the city’s financial condition as stable but not stellar.

City staff said they would continue monitoring revenue through Feb. 28, the end of the fiscal year, to try and narrow the gap. At the Jan. 24 city council meeting, Joellen Earl, Evanston’s administrative services director, also outlined options to transfer money from other funds to cover the shortfall; the General Fund reserves could also be tapped to eliminate the deficit.

Bobkiewicz and Earl presented the deficit projections to the council as part of their report on the city’s finances through the end of the third quarter, Nov. 30.

Earl said most departments were under budget through November. Third quarter expenditures are down 1.7 percent from the corresponding period last year, or about $1.1 million.

The reasons for the decrease are twofold, according to the report. Much expenditure is incurred unevenly in a fiscal year; the example provided cited a usual uptick in overtime wages in the fourth quarter due to increased snow removal services.

Bobkiewicz said he has taken several steps to tighten expenditures across city departments, including freezes on hiring and non-essential spending. All spending more than $1000 and out-of-state travel will require approval from the city manager’s office.

Delays by the state of Illinois in paying the city its share of state income tax revenue has added a degree of uncertainty to budget projections.

“We want to be as conservative as possible because, quite honestly, with the timing of the receipts from the state we just cannot guarantee when … monies come through the state,” Bobkiewicz said. “Rather than making an uneducated guess, we’ll be just a little more cautious.”

Illinois is six months behind in paying the city a total of $2.7 million in state income tax revenue, according to the report. Similar delays in property tax dispersals from Cook County could push anticipated revenue from this fiscal year to the next.

The next fiscal year will be only 10 months long, from March 1 to Dec. 31, as the city transitions to a calendar fiscal year beginning in 2012-2013.

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