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Don’t cut pension funding

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Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and three Evanston aldermen deserve praise for not taking the easy way out on public safety pension funding Monday night.

They were presented with an actuarial report that would let the city trim its payment to the fire and police pension funds next year by about $700,000 — from $14.9 million to $14.2 million.

But that saving would come at the cost of having the pension funding level decline slightly — from 45.7 percent to 45.6 percent for the police fund and from 45.6 percent to 45.3 percent for the firefighters.

And that's assuming the actuary's projections about the investment performance of the funds come true.

The mayor said she wants see the pension funding level increase — to at least 50 percent — within the next few years.

And so, she said, the city should set aside as much for pensions next year is it did this year.

Theoretically, under current state law, the pensions plans are to be 90 percent funded by 2040, but the state has repeatedly extended its funding deadlines.

Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward; Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, shared the mayor's sentiment, with Wilson adding that he wants to set aside "at least as much" for pensions next year as this year.

Only Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, spoke in favor of setting funding at the lower level recommended by the actuary, arguing the level he recommended "is not that much less than last year."

But the mayor countered that "the sooner we put more money in, the less we have to spend in the long term."

The views of the other five aldermen on the issue weren't clear, and at the request of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the aldermen agreed to try to reach consensus on a pension funding level for next year at acity council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Bobkiewicz suggested it would be difficult to find the money to maintain the pension funding level without resorting to employee layoffs.

So, he said, he needs to know the council's wishes on the issue before he has to submit the proposed city budget for 2013, which is due to be released Oct. 12.

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