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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2 Comments

  1. Tisdahl is off-base
    I understand that she believes that since we have lived in Evanston all of these years, we should want to pay for the pensions of the police officers and firefighters. To some extent, I agree. According to her argument, am I right to assume that we should tax people based on how long they have lived in Evanston? If so, the newcomers should be taxed fairly minimally, while the older residents and Northwestern should be taxed very heavily. In fact, if you consider her argument, the greatest portion of taxation should go to Northwestern; I find it interesting that she left them out of her comments.

    One other point. The city should remove pensions from the equation altogether. Several of us are on 401K plans. If someone has been working for at least 10 years, their pensions should be moved to a 401K. All others with greater seniority should stay as they are. It is cheaper for the city and is consistent with what the rest of us have currently. If a person is getting 40K per year in pension for 30 years, that amounts to 1.2 million per person. If they had a 401K and worked 25 years with 6% matching (100%) for a 50K salary, then the city would only contribute 3K per year for 25 yrs (75K). A lot more affordable from the city’s perspective.

    Why should I support a vote for someone to have a pension? I do not have a pension so there will be no sympathy coming from me. Plus, from a business case perspective, it is a no brainer.

  2. Police and firefighters earn their pensions through service
    Please remember that police and firefighters spend their working hours putting themselves between danger and the citizens of this community. Pensions are an important part of their compensation. I don’t know the correct approach to re-fund the pension, but some solution needs to be found.

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