One of the more alarming issues facing municipalities of all stripes in Illinois is the state’s mandate that police pensions be 100 percent funded by the year 2034. That seems like a long way off, but the mandate will continue to be a burden for small municipalities like Brookfield and Riverside, whose main revenue stream comes from property taxes.
By the end of the 2006 fiscal year, Riverside expects its police pension fund to be at 64 percent of full funding. That’s a little over 1 percent lower than it’s expected to be at the end of 2005, and Riverside will be increasing its contribution to the pension fund by 10 percent in 2006.
And despite it all, the amount of money in the Riverside police pension fund is roughly $8 million?”over half the size of the village’s annual budget.
In Brookfield, the police pension has historically been better funded. At the end of the 1998-99 fiscal year, Brookfield police pensions were funded at a rate of 81.6 percent. Since that time the village’s contribution to the police pension fund has doubled, yet the percentage at which police pensions are funded has fallen to 64 percent.
In the meantime, the number of dollars each village can allocate to fund day-to-day municipal operations?”important things like running a Building Department and a Public Works Department?”continues to take a hit. How much are municipalities supposed to take before they simply collapse financially under such a mandate by state government?
Sure, municipalities can go to voters and ask them to open their wallets to help foot the bill. But residents are also being asked to ante up for other things?”roads, sewers, schools, libraries, recreation. How much more can taxpayers be expected to take?
If the state is going to mandate 100 percent funding of pensions (something private companies are finding increasingly impossible to do), then they ought to come with a plan to help get that done, and municipalities need to start pressuring state legislators to help ease some of that burden.
Reading the future
Speaking of alarming, on the heels of a successful spring referendum, the Brookfield Public Library board looks to be setting the stage for a discussion on the suitability of its 20-year-old facility, which has been beset by maintenance issues and criticized as too small to serve a community of Brookfield’s size.
Next spring, the library board would like to hire a space planner to analyze the library’s facilities and recommend ways to address the findings. Those kinds of exercises, while no doubt helpful, are often self-fulfilling prophecies. Our prediction is that the report is likely to conclude that the library is way too small and wouldn’t it be great if we either built a second story or bought land and expanded.
One thing’s for certain, the report will almost certainly not say that all is hunky dory, and that no expensive improvements are needed.
That is going to be a tough sell for Brookfield taxpayers, who OK’d a building in the 1980s only to find out its roof and windows would leak like sieves and that it was too small almost from the get go.