Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

21° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



City Council introduces lower budget after staff reduces Capital Improvement Program

Black outdoor sign with white lettering signaling the Civic Center.
Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler
City Council introduced a reduced 2024 budget on Monday night, reflecting major cuts to Capital Improvement Program funding.

City Council introduced a reduced version of the proposed 2024 budget after accepting an updated Capital Improvement Program at Monday night’s meeting. 

The original 2024 CIP proposed a $111.2 million list of needs, including parks and city facilities improvements and water main replacements. The updated proposal comes in at $96.3 million and reduces the number of actionable projects from 134 to 95.

Lara Biggs, the city’s Capital Planning & Engineering bureau chief, said the 2024 CIP was reduced to align with staff and funding availability. Many of the projects were simply delayed to future years, she said. 

The updated 2024 CIP also reduces the proposed need for general obligation bonds from $33.4 million to $18.7 million, which has been a concern among residents since the CIP was introduced to the council on Sept. 18. 

Among the delayed projects are road construction plans on Chicago Avenue and Green Bay Road and renovations to the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

According to Hitesh Desai, chief financial officer for the city, the CIP reductions would bring the $449 million budget down by “roughly $25 million.” Councilmembers voted unanimously to amend the budget ordinance to reflect the change. 

City staff also presented lingering questions about the proposed 2024 budget, seeking council feedback on vacancy rates and new staff positions.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) suggested cutting the proposed City Council Administrator position, which would provide additional assistance to councilmembers. She also suggested ending the Council’s access to Worxbee, a virtual executive assistance service, that currently costs about $68,000 per year. Kelly’s cuts would amount to a reduction of about $193,000. 

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) “staunchly” opposed Kelly’s amendment. 

“All of us are here working hard, but as a councilmember who serves on more committees than I think anyone else, who puts so much time and effort into this damn job, I need an assistant,” Reid said.

Reid suggested a new amendment to reduce the budget by $70,000 to account for the transition between the phasing out of Worxbee and the hiring of the City Council Administrator. The amendment passed 8-1, and the introduced budget was amended to include Reid’s change.

The council also discussed increasing the proposed vacancy rate in city staff positions in the 2024 budget from 2% to 4%. The city currently has a vacancy rate of about 5%.

According to Kelly, average cities have vacancy rates of 4-5%. Kelly said these rates are “the nature of the beast” as cities attempt to keep up with hiring new staff. However, proposing a lower vacancy rate increases the budget to fund the filled positions.

“When you underestimate the vacancy rate, you’re charging your residents for salaries you’re not paying,” Kelly said. “To drop (the vacancy rate) to (2%), or even (3%), means we’re going to be overcharging residents.”

Increasing the proposed vacancy rate to 4% in the 2024 budget would reduce the property tax levy by about $1.85 million.

Most councilmembers supported the 4% vacancy rate, while Reid and Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) supported a 3.5% vacancy rate. The rate has not yet been changed in the 2024 proposed budget. 

Reid also proposed a special order of business suggesting several modes of revenue for Evanston to help balance the city’s budget, including an increased motor fuel tax and food delivery tax. 

Council will consider the special order of business at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @LilyOgburn

Related Stories: 

City Council talks funding, debates bonds for proposed 2024 Capital Improvement Program

City Council tables Rebuild Ryan Field approval, introduces $450 million 2024 budget

The Daily Explains: What’s in Evanston’s proposed 2024 budget?

More to Discover