Friends of Robert Crown raise $1 million extra funds, may help fill deficit


Katie Pach / Daily Senior Staffer

City officials and kids from Evanston Summer Camps shovel dirt at the Robert Crown Community Center groundbreaking ceremony. The complete renovation of the center is scheduled to finish in fall 2019.

Kristina Karisch, City Editor

Friends of the Robert Crown Center, a nonprofit organization that is raising money for the new Robert Crown Community Center construction, said they can provide the city with an additional $1 million in funding for the project.

“We wanted for this year to be able to take this issue off the table and give the city some time to get their funding and expenditures straight,” said Peter Giangreco, the group’s secretary. “(For Robert Crown) not one penny is going toward the budget deficit this year.”

As part of the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget, city staff is suggesting a $1 million contribution to the Robert Crown Center’s debt service. This number falls into the overall projected budget deficit of $7.4 million, which city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said is a combination of three things: a $4.9 million general fund shortfall, a $1.5 million replenishment of recently depleted reserve funds, and the $1 million for Robert Crown.

To solve the deficit, Bobkiewicz said staff is suggesting decreasing expenditures by an additional $4.3 million and increasing revenue by $3.3 million, a significant portion of which would come from fee increases.

“We’re trying to mirror revenues with expenses,” Bobkiewicz said to reporters during a budget press briefing on Oct. 4. “In order to better align revenues and expenses, we have to make reductions. … None of this is easy.”

Giangreco said the group has raised more money this year than originally anticipated, and may now be able to fill the $1 million gap. He said the group’s board voted unanimously to give the additional money to the city.

In a letter sent to Mayor Steve Hagerty and members of City Council, the organization’s board said they have already raised $11.7 million of their $15 million “stretch” fundraising goal. Because of this, the city will only have to contribute $38 million to the total price of Robert Crown — estimated at $53 million.

“We hit that number in October and said that we’d keep raising money because we thought there was still support out there,” Giangreco said.

The new Robert Crown Community Center plans to have two full sheet ice rinks, turf fields, a daycare center and a branch of the Evanston Public Library. The new center is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

At a February City Council meeting, aldermen decided that Friends of the Robert Crown Center had to provide the city $2.5 million toward construction costs in fall 2018. But according to the letter, the group is able to give $3.5 million — $1 million more than expected. Giangreco said since the package passed, the project has experienced $4.5 million in construction overruns.

Bobkiewicz said his office has received the proposal and has sent it to the legal and finance departments for further evaluations of the terms and conditions of the issued bonds.

“We are still evaluating issues with the bonds that were issued,” Bobkiewicz said. “My hope is that we’ll have more information for the Council as they start deliberating the budget starting on Oct. 22.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @kristinakarisch