City Council unanimously approves increase in fiscal year 2021 budget


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council discussed plans to address concerns from its last meeting about the council’s role in authorizing overspending.

Jacob Wendler, Reporter

City Council voted unanimously Monday to pass an ordinance authorizing Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski to increase the city’s 2021 fiscal year budget by more than $11 million. The council previously voted to hold the ordinance on April 25 after several councilmembers expressed concerns about fiscal transparency. 

The city came in more than $30 million under its ​​$296 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Nonetheless, the council is required to adopt a budget amendment approving funds in specific areas where the city exceeded budgeted expenses, including the parking system fund and the police pension fund.

At the April 25 meeting, Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) asked the city government to give councilmembers more explicit notice of overspending in the future.

Evanston resident Mike Vasilko said at Monday’s meeting that staff has not addressed Kelly’s concern. 

“Tonight, I don’t see any response to Councilmember Kelly’s request for staff to provide a roadmap for how they’re going to change and reform the practice of uninformed consent by way of the bills list and the credit card list,” Vasilko said.

Kelly said she spoke with Gandurski and Hitesh Desai, the city’s chief financial officer and treasurer, about ways to improve the process going forward. Gandurski said she found Kelly’s request for Desai to report any overages of business units quarterly to the Finance and Budget Committee to be reasonable. In response to a request from Kelly, Gandurski then clarified that the quarterly reports would include projected overages and projected surpluses.

Desai explained that the council approves the budget each year, but city staffers only come to the council when spending is over budget on funds, not on specific line items.

Gandurski elaborated on this process, explaining that each year, the city attempts to estimate the funding needed for each business unit based on the number of full-time positions. She said they attempt to account for potential contingencies such as contractual issues.

“It’s not a perfect system,” Gandurski said. “So some items you go over, and some items you spend under wildly. I think the good news that (Desai) is giving us is that overall we went under, but we went over on some line items.”

Reid said the city seems to be “in pretty healthy financial shape,” but he still expressed concern about spending that, according to him, the council never authorized. 

He pointed to Evanston Fire Department’s overtime expenditures as an example of the city exceeding budgeted expenditures without seeking approval from City Council.

“Most of the money was approved by council at some point, but there are some funds still that remain… where the city staff did not come and seek authorization to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds prior to those funds being expended,” Reid said.

Reid emphasized the fire department’s service is important and likely would have received support, but he still believes City Council needs to approve the funds.

Kelly said she motioned to hold the ordinance at the last meeting over concerns about the process rather than the overspending specifically.

“I just want to say I’m happy that I feel I’ve had productive and beneficial conversations with (Interim) City Manager Gandurski and while it’s not in the packet, I believe there is a commitment to improve the process going forward,” Kelly said.

Correction: This article has been updated to better reflect Ald. Kelly’s request for clarity regarding the nature of quarterly reports to the Finance and Budget Committee. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob.wendler

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