Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Evanston city officials have proposed cutting nearly 40 jobs — including five police officers and nine firefighters — slashing the public health department budget, closing one recreation center, and closing and selling a fire station in order to deal with a $7.4 million deficit expected in the city’s fiscal year 2019 budget which runs Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

The discussion comes as Evanston deals with decreasing property tax revenue, increasing employee and pension costs, anticipated bond debt to pay for capital improvements around town, and costs to rebuild the Robert Crown Community Center, among other factors.

The reserve fund, which ideally should have 16.6 percent of the city’s annual operating expenses, ended 2017 at 12.8 percent. As such, $1.5 million of Evanston’s operating budget is marked for contribution to general fund reserve. The city has marked $1 million for debt service to pay for renovations to the Robert Crown Community Center.

City officials say property tax revenue has not recovered since the recession and sales taxes since that time have stayed relatively flat. Meanwhile, building permit revenue has dropped from a 2016 high and is not expected to recover soon.

  • The city proposed eliminating 38.5 jobs. Of those, 21 are vacant and 17.5 are filled. Positions that could be cut include: cultural arts coordinator, legal analyst and liquor licensing manager, facilities maintenance worker, fleet operations coordinator, payroll/pension specialist, junior mechanic, two full-time and one part-time human services advocates, the director and assistant director of public health, communicable disease specialist, one police commander, one court liaison, one police video records specialist, five police officers, nine firefighters, and two public works maintenance workers.
  • Another proposal reorganizes the parks department, which could result in one full-time and three part-time positions being cut.
  • Fire Station 4, in the 2nd Ward, could be closed and put up for sale, with all firefighter positions there eliminated, according to the proposed budget. That could save the city about $1.3 million.
  • In contrast, the city could close the Gibbs-Morrison Center in the 5th Ward, but keep the building and property and lease it out to a new operator. City staff also is proposing eliminating the Storefront Modernization Program, which includes grants to help local businesses update entryways. Cutting that program would save Evanston $75,000.
  • Also on the cutting block is Evanston’s Cultural Arts Administration, which helps support local arts. If cut, it could save the city $175,000. Staff also proposed eliminating the annual World Art and Music Festival, which would save $55,000.
  • Also proposed is reducing Mental Health Board funding by $250,000, or about 34 percent of the 2018 budget.

Some proposals to help generate additional revenue, staff has proposed increasing the residential parking permit rate from $15 to $30, raising parking ticket fees from $20 to $25, charging $70 for block party permits — which now are free, increasing the wheel tax from $75 to $85 and contracting out the city’s crossing guards.

The council is expected to begin discussing the budget at its Oct. 22 meeting and hold a public hearing on Oct. 27.