As reported on evanstonnow.com, the blue ribbon committee studying Evanston's pension funding shortfall released its report. Here are a few choice excerpts:
A number of questions arise as to why action was not taken earlier to address this growing underfunded pension issue. Oversight of the pension funds is a responsibility of the City’s Finance Manager and the City Manager. The Aldermen and Mayor ultimately oversee all operations for the City. We would also note that the Police Fund Board of Trustees sued Evanston in 1987 for failure to adequately fund the Police Pension Plan. A decision was rendered in 2005. While the court found in favor of the City, the underlying issues that gave rise to the lawsuit seemed to go largely unheeded by the City Council.
2. Incremental Revenue Sources
a) Not-for-profit, charitable, and religious organizations are typically exempt from property taxation and several other taxes, though they use or benefit from municipal services including fire and police. Since the time, that these exemptions were granted, municipal financial situations and the social contracts with their citizenry have evolved and/or been modified. Thus, in Evanston, such concessions should be reviewed and if warranted, tax exemption should be eliminated, or user fees for public services used should be imposed.
Conduct analysis for services consumed by each major not-for-profit entity, including hospitals, educational institutions, churches, retirement homes and others.
4. Budget Cuts and efficiency reorganization
a) The budget defines expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year. Former City Manager, Julia Carroll, gave City Council a list of items to consider cutting. In addition, we suggest changing the budgeting process from the current incremental approach to new zero based budgeting. Zero based budgeting requires reevaluating each program every year to justify its expenditures.
5. Economic Development
As a result of recent very successful economic development efforts, the City has experienced a large influx of high rise apartment buildings. These buildings expand the taxpayer base, but also put greater demands on fire and police services. Economic development should now be directed towards acquiring more business, office, industrial, and retail services, which may provide increases in revenue to the City that is proportionately higher than the increase in cost of services.
As a candidate for 7th Ward alderman, I'll only say that I agree wholeheartedly with the diagnosis and proposed solutions contained in this report.