Evanston releases 2019 first quarter financial report


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

A snowy day in November. Snow events in Evanston during the first quarter of 2019 led to high overtime expenses in the police department, fire department and Public Works Agency.

Emma Edmund, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston city manager’s office released its 2019 first quarter financial report at the May 13 Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, showing many expenses over budget.

At the meeting, Hitesh Desai, Evanston’s chief financial officer, reviewed all of the funds, including the general fund. The general fund has the largest fund balance of all accounts listed at about $20 million, according to city documents.. The fund’s expenses to the date of the report were about $36.5 million, or roughly 31 percent of the budget, above the target of 25 percent.

“This is typical,” Desai said of the actual-to-budget disparity, due to property tax logistics.

Part of the general fund’s revenue comes from property taxes, the first installment of which the city received March 31.

There were several other economic trends of note brought up at the meeting in relation to the general fund. In particular, the police and fire department overtime expenses are higher than expected.

“Overtime expenses are trending a bit higher than budget — we saw this last year as well,” said Kate Lewis-Lakin, the city’s budget coordinator. “We’re still hoping to end 2019 below those 2018 actuals. This is an expense category that we keep our eye on closely as the year continues.”

Lewis-Lakin said the city expects to receive reimbursements from Northwestern for police overtime due to Dillo Day in the spring and home football games in the fall, which will make up for some of these shortfalls.

Another area of concern for the general fund budget comes from the snow expense category. Snow events during the first quarter of 2019 led to high overtime expenses in the police department, fire department and Public Works Agency, according to city documents.

The documents also state that about 88 percent of budgeted overtime expenses in the Public Works Agency Snow and Ice business unit have already been spent, as of March 31. Lewis-Lakin said November and December weather could put these expenses $300,000 over budget, based on past year trends.

“Everyone knock on wood and hope for very little snow that time of year,” Lewis-Lakin said.

More details on other aspects of the general fund, such as membership dues, will be provided in the mid-year budget report, Lewis-Lakin said.

The presentation also covered some of the other more prominent funds, such as the parking fund and water fund. City staff expect revenues within the parking fund to increase due to a parking meter rate increase implemented on March 1. The water fund also appears to be low in revenue due to expenses for large capital projects, according to city documents.

Finally, the insurance fund shows negative fund and cash balance, according to city documents. These documents attribute the negative balance to “legal fees and settlements expenses.”

Aldermen approved the report and placed it on file at the May 13 City Council meeting. City staff is currently planning for the creation of a 2020-2021 budget, with a proposed budget usually released in early October.

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Twitter: @emmaeedmund

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