City plans for potential state funding cut


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

The Evanston Dog Beach is one of six Evanston beaches. Employee hours at the beaches may be reduced next summer if the state withholds funding from Evanston and other municipalities.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

The city is planning potential cuts to temporary positions, apprenticeships and internships in several departments if Illinois decreases its funding to Evanston in December.

The state’s six-month stopgap spending bill runs out at the end of the year, and it is yet unclear whether the next budget or spending bill will keep level funding to local municipalities. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said aldermen asked for a contingency plan to be drawn up in case Evanston’s funding was limited by the General Assembly.

The contingency plan allows for $3.6 million less in state funding. Several public works internships, apprenticeships and seasonal jobs are on the line, according to a city budget memo.

Public works apprentices are Evanston residents who are hired for a two-year training term. Public Works director Dave Stoneback said apprentices typically make for good hires if a full-time position opens up.

That sort of “succession planning” is at risk, Stoneback said, if the state were to limit funding and cuts had to be made.

“(A) goal is to hire more Evanston residents,” he said. “If we don’t train them up for these jobs, the most qualified person may not be an Evanston resident.”

Two out of the six total apprenticeship positions in the department could be cut under the contingency plan.

Apart from potential cuts in apprentices, the Public Works Agency could also be asked to limit the number of seasonal workers they hire in the summer. Seasonal workers typically help with street sweeping, tree trimming and park maintenance, Stoneback said.

Stoneback said cutting several summer employees could lead to a “minor loss of timeliness” for responding to service requests.

The contingency plan also suggests cutting one of two internship positions under the environmental project coordinator and decreasing the hours for an intern under the engineering division.

All four of the forestry seasonal positions may be cut as well.

The public works department is planning for $135,259 in potential cuts, while the parks, recreation and community services department is planning for $28,000 in potential cuts.

If the state were to cut Evanston funding, the Parks department would eliminate five seasonal positions at the Dog Beach gate and boat ramp. Typically, an employee lets people in and out of both restricted areas. However, both have a coded gate and would still be accessible to the residents.

The department is also planning on limiting the hours slightly for seasonal staff at the city’s beaches.

Bobkiewicz said if the state were to retain funds that would normally go to local municipalities, aldermen and city staff would take another look at the contingency plan and amend the budget.

“Unfortunately with the the state of Illinois, things happen without a lot of deliberation or public comment; they just sort of happen,” he said. “Oftentimes we’ll wake up in the morning and discover that overnight a budget has been passed with things that were not previously discussed…and that’s just the way it is.”

Bobkiewicz said the contingency plan puts them “a step ahead” if funding were to be slashed.

“(It’s) all very hypothetical,” he said. “But at least we have something to start with versus starting a process at that point saying, ‘Oh gosh what can we do.’”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @noracshelly