City Council is poised to forward to the state legislature a resolution calling for two measures aldermen hope will aid them in addressing the pension-funding crisis. Over the past 13 months, aldermen say they have come to accept that the City’s aggregate unfunded pension liability to the police and firefighters pension funds is upwards of $140 million. That amount accounted in large part for the increase in the City’s portion of the property tax for this fiscal year. Both pensions must be fully funded by 2033.
The resolution calls for the General Assembly to “stop approving new and increased pension benefits for the police and firefighters pension funds” and “embrace sensible pension reform,” which could include finding alternative revenue sources to fund these pension liabilities.
At a Rules Committee meeting on April 7, aldermen appeared to be split on the import and the impact of the resolution, which was based on a model drafted by the Northwest Municipal Conference (NWMC). Similar resolutions have been adopted by other municipalities, and NWMC says it hopes that trend will continue, so legislators from districts throughout the state will be asked to take action. Although Evanston has been called the “poster child” for its steep liabilities to the pension funds, the problem is widespread throughout the state.
Evanston’s resolution lists several reasons for the funding crisis: early retirements, investment restrictions inflation, low returns on investments and retirement and disability benefits.
Mayor Lorraine Morton, Aldermen Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said they did not believe the resolution would prove beneficial. “You don’t have to do this,” Mayor Morton told the aldermen. Ald. Moran said he felt the resolution was “essentially meaningless.”
Yet Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, urged his colleagues to approve the resolution so it could be forwarded to Springfield. “We need to send this out, to add our voice. People need to know that people are concerned.”
Aldermen may vote on the resolution at the April 21 City Council meeting.