Evanston’s City Council voted Monday night to add $4.5 million more to its public safety pension contributions in 2023.

The alders opted to take the additional money from fund reserves rather than take the politically risky move of raising property taxes.

The decision pleased police and fire pension fund leaders who have argued for years that the city has drastically underfunded the pension programs.

If the city maintains the increased funding level through 2040, the pension fund officials believe the pensions will become fully funded.

Achieving full funding would dramatically increase pension fund investment returns and reduce the size of required future contributions.

However, it’s unlikely the city will have sufficient budget surpluses in future years to maintain the higher funding level without either increasing taxes or cutting other programs.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th), who cast the only vote against the pension funding amendment to the budget, asked the city’s chief financial officer, Hitesh Desai, how much of a property tax increase would be required to generate $4.5 million in additional revenue.

Desai said it would require a roughly 8% increase in the city’s share of a homeowner’s total property tax bill.

With that amendment included, the City Council approved the 2023 budget for introduction. A final vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for the Council’s Dec. 12 meeting.

The alders deferred action until that meeting on a proposal to transfer $2 million from the general fund to the reparations fund after Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings said the action could raise the chances of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the city’s reparations program.

Cummings said that even if such a suit were ultimately unsuccessful, it could result in the issuance of an injunction while the case was pending that might halt distribution of any funds from the program for years.

As Monday’s meeting ended, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said he’s planning to propose budget amendments Dec. 12 that would provide city funding for Shorefront, the non-profit Black history center based in Evanston, and to add staff support for council members.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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