Evanston city government almost ground to a halt Monday night.

Mayor Lorraine Morton announced as the City Council meeting started that she had vetoed the city budget approved by the aldermen late last month.

The mayor said she believed the 7 percent property tax increase approved by the council was too large, and the city could get away with making smaller contributions to the police and fire pension plans than what the council had approved.

But city attorney Herb Hill said the veto meant the city would have no budget and be unable to spend money or conduct any other business until a new budget is adopted or the veto was overridden.

And several aldermen insisted the pension payments were absolutely essential to avoid even bigger budget problems in future years.

So, after almost 90 minutes of debate, the aldermen voted unanimously to suspend council rules and override the mayor’s veto, reinstating the budget approved last month.

Mayor Morton said she’d been misinformed by city staff about the impact of her veto and that what she really wanted to do was just veto the pension payments, but she couldn’t figure out from the budget documents how to create a line-item veto of those provisions.

If she had done a line-item veto, Hill said, the city could have continued to operate and the council could have waited until its next meeting to consider what to do about the pension funding.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. Can you say compound interest?
    It’s fortunate that the Mayor’s veto didn’t succeed. Maybe it would be helpful if someone explained the current budget crisis in terms of shady “make no payments for a year” credit offers: the longer we put off paying this bill, the more opportunity we lose to make money through investments and interest. The less interest we earn, the higher our taxes will inevitably be.

    If prior councils had addressed this issue when it was brought to their attention over ten years ago, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.

  2. Why do we have a mayor,
    Why do we have a mayor, collecting a pension, that is so anti-police and fire pension? What does she have against the men and women that give up considerable portions of their lives to serve the people of Evanston? And why do we have a mayor so unfamiliar with the way government operates as not to understand part of the budget or the veto process.
    Time for significant government change in Evanston.

  3. Mayor vetoes budget, council overrides veto
    If this single item isn’t enough to vote the mayor out of office, I don’t know what is. It’s funny how with all the complaining about the high cost of taxes, no one has ever questioned the largest portion of our tax bills (for those who don’t bother to look, that would be the school district). Why is there no questioning about their budgets? Why is ETHS spending more money, per student, than New Trier? New Trier hasn’t failed to meet their testing qualifications!
    While the Mayor doesn’t feel the police and fire pensions should be properly funded, maybe if we looked at teachers pensions, money could be saved there. The teachers have a better pension than the police and firemen. If you look at the teachers pension, TRS, web site, it shows the teachers only contribute 9.4% of their salary, less than police and fire. The teachers also get 75% of their pay upon retirement where police and fire can only get 70%. Also, the teachers get health insurance for $66 a month if they are on medicare, or $240 if that is their sole insurance. Police and fire retirees have to cover the full cost of the policy, over $1000 a month, if they wish to keep their insurance.
    I bet if the teachers pensions were diminished, the tax bills allocated to the school would be less. Anyone think the mayor would support that????

  4. My service and my pension
    I am one of the retired police officers held in contempt by Lorraine Morton. It is apalling to me that as a mayor of a city like Evanston, she has no sense of the worth of her public safety personnel. During my 26 years on the department I walked into untold number of situations from which any other person would run. I broke a leg, and a few fingers while serving the citizenry of Evanston, all in the line of duty. I healed, and I went back to work. While my job was my choice, and I loved every day of it, I earned my pension. And now Lorraine doesn’t want to live up to her obligations as the elected mayor of Evanston. SHAME ON HER! And shame on each and every one of the alderman and appointed officials who have let Evanston fall into more than $140,000,000 of pension debt. This debt didn’t just show up on their tables last night, it has accrued for more that thirty years, and these people, responsible for running the City wisely, let it happen for years. If it were up to me, I would vote every one of them out of office and elect responsible people into their places.

  5. Why not shift to defined contribution plans?
    Why are police and teacher pension plans still defined benefit? My guess is that most residents in Evanston have defined contribution plans (like 401k plans) that do not guarantee any level of income at retirement. Why should we guarantee 70% or 75% to anyone? Why should public employees not face the same risks as any other tax payers?

  6. bankruptcy
    Evanston should follow in the footsteps of Vallejo, CA and declare BANKRUPTCY. It’s the only way the taxpayers have a chance against these crippling legacy costs. Then the city could force the unions to renegotiate contracts, fire people, and finally get spending under control.

  7. Mayor Morton: Veto
    I believe the Mayor is doing an excellent job and is trying to solve the budget crisis with minimal impact to our community. The crisis we find ourselves in is not unique to Evanston, but is part of a larger trend affecting many cities and suburbs throughout the nation. The bottom line is that there are no easy answers, and i support the Mayors intention on limiting the tax increase while preserving the legacy obligations to the pensions.

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