Evanston aldermen Monday postponed a decision on whether to ask voters to approve a 20 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax to help fund police and fire pensions.

The delay came after City Manager Julia Carroll announced that staff would present a series of recommendation on how to address the city’s $100 million pension funding shortfall at a special City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, moved to postpone the vote until after that presentation.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, who favors another try at persuading voters to approve a transfer tax hike to fund affordable housing programs, argued against the pension funding referendum, saying it would be unfair to burden those who are selling their homes and leaving town with the cost of the police and fire pension shortfall.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, who proposed the new referendum, responded that those homeowners hae had the benefit of police and fire service for all the years they’ve been in the city. She said the pension funding shortfall that’s built up over the years is partly their responsibility and its fair to have them pay part of the cost.

She said that its important to get as early a start as possible on the referendum campaign to convince voters of the need for the increase, before the presidential primary, which will also be on the ballot, distracts the public’s attention.

Dave Ellis of 1319 Grant St., former president of the firefighter’s union, said that while affordable housing is a noble concept, the city shouldn’t take on any new programs until its pension funding and infrastructure problems are resolved.

The police and firefighters have always paid their share of contributions to the pension fund as required by law, Mr. Ellis said, and it’s time for the city to do the same.

He suggested that the city also consider increasing permit fees and fuel taxes and dedicate tax increment finance district revenues to the pension program.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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