Evanston officials present proposed budget at City Council


Stephanie Kelly/The Daily Northwestern

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons presents the proposed 2015 budget to City Council on Monday night. The budget, which totals more than $260 million, will be discussed further on Saturday at a public hearing.

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

City officials presented Monday the 2015 budget to aldermen, outlining the revenues and expenses that make up the more than $260 million proposed for the upcoming year.

The budget, which is 2.2 percent higher than that from last year, includes proposed ideas such as additional job positions, a water rate increase and a focus on at-risk families. There is no net increase in property taxes for residents in the proposed budget. Officials will present a proposed 2015 capital improvement plan at a public hearing on Saturday.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at the meeting he thinks this is the best, most fiscally responsible budget of the six budgets he has presented in his years with the city. It is important to make sure Evanston residents in all nine wards can comfortably live in the city, he said.

“We aren’t going to have a regional shopping mall,” Bobkiewicz said. “We’re not going to have any more car dealers, we’re not going to have industry, but what we do have is livability.”

“Over and over, we are seeing organizations throughout America pointing to Evanston as a place where you want to live,” he added. “So that’s really our market.”

Alex Thorpe, the budget team’s management analyst, said the team reached out to residents at the Evanston Streets Alive! festival in September to gather suggestions on budget allocation. Of residents surveyed, 32 percent said they wanted to see the money put into street improvements, Thorpe said. The team also reached out through social media and other methods.

Karen Danczak Lyons, the director of the Evanston Public Library, said the library receives some of its funds from property taxes. Compared with neighboring areas, including Skokie and Arlington Heights, EPL receives less property tax support, she said.

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) said she agreed with Bobkiewicz that this is the most fiscally responsible budget yet, other than the requested increase in funds from the library.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she supports giving the library more money in order to ensure that younger students are reading at appropriate levels for their ages.

Joe McRae, deputy city manager and director of parks, recreation and community services, said there has been progress in dealing with youth and young adults, but it’s still an area that can improve. Although there has been effective outreach to young males seeking assistance, there hasn’t been enough toward young females, he said. New positions in the proposed budget could help provide that outreach, he said.

If the proposed budget is approved, the city will have the opportunity to add new positions in the general assistance administration and positions related to workforce development of at-risk families.

“We’re doing all the things that a good community, that a livable community should do,” Bobkiewicz said. “I appreciate the hard decisions that this City Council has made the past few years, and I know, unfortunately, that there are still hard decisions to make as we move forward.”

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