After months of toiling with a variety of expenditures, City Council members and residents alike compiled their thoughts together into one substantial budget that City Council presented at their meeting on Monday night.
The $260 million 2015 Fiscal Year Budget will focus mainly on improvements and alterations to community buildings, debt and those who are considered at-risk.
One of the biggest concerns for the city is the impact of the state economy. "The performance of the state economy impacts the City in numerous ways," said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, according to the City of Evanston website, "including income and sales tax, local employment, housing, and economic development."
During the week of Sept. 4 through 12, Evanston residents were asked where they would like to see reforms prioritized — an overwhelming 32 percent wanted the roads fixed. An additional $300,000 will be spent on roads according to the new budget, which brings the total to $19 million focused on streets. The city will be centering on Dempster, Dodge, Hastings, Hinman, Lake, Main, Pitner and Ridge in the upcoming year when water main projects are included.
According to this residential survey, besides infrastructure, people would like to see the money spent on parks and recreation and arts (21 percent), facility improvements (13 percent), health and human services (12 percent) and public safety (12 percent).
Not all residents are happy with the projected budget, however. At the meeting, city activist Junad Rizki spoke out that the council is neglecting parts of the city. "There are millions of dollars at stake here that are being misused," said Rizki.
Marty Lyons, assistant city manager and chief financial advisor of Evanston, presented the budget with an optimistic tone. "We have a strong economy," said Lyons.
Nearing the end of this fiscal year, the City of Evanston is 1.4 percent above budget, which leaves a surplus of $3.8 million. Ashley Porta, city budget manager, explained some expenses that will be removed for the new budget including a reduction of contractual services, elimination of vital records and reduction in natural gas usage — allowing the money to be used elsewhere.
The Heath and Services Department will be reestablished with a variety of programs, as well as an increased focus on workforce development in an effort to help those in need. Compared to the FY2014 budget, there will be more job programs and services available in an attempt to reduce unemployment. Currently the unemployment rate is at 5.3 percent, which is lower than the national average.
In August 2013, Evanston took part in the Local Debt Recovery Program in hopes of minimizing city debt. This year, the budget includes no net increase in property taxes in the General Fund, the Debt Service Fund, Pension Funds and the General Assistance Fund, in hopes that the city's improved financial situation requires no increase.
Recently awarded three Public Technology Awards for Web Management and E-Government, IT and Telecommunications and Public Safety Technology, the City of Evanston is on its way to producing more reforms to better the community.
“This is not only one of the the most livable cities in Illinois," Bobkiewicz said, "we want to be one of the most livable cities in the country."