In a very long and issue-filled meeting, the City Council seemed to make a significant move on budget negotiations by indicating support Monday, Nov. 14, for funding police and fire pensions at 100% to meet state’s 2040 target goal.

The council didn’t take a formal vote on First Ward Council Member Clare Kelly’s proposal calling on the city to commit to funding pensions by $4.5 million more than the amount under a 90% track recommended by staff.

But via a voice poll conducted by Mayor Daniel Biss, council members indicated their support.

This would put Evanston on track to avoid racking up unfunded interest that has served as one of the city’s biggest financial liabilities over the years.

Under Kelly’s proposal, the city would tap reserve funds and other non-property tax revenues to support the higher contributions.

During budget discussion, representatives of police and fire pensions funds have called on the officials to capitalize on the city’s improved financial picture, stressing “the pay now or pay later” idea.

At 90% funding, based on 2020 figures, unfunded liability in the police fund will grow by $26 million if ignored in the funding over the next 20 years, said Tim Schoolmaster, president of the police Pension Fund, who has urged officials to “break the mold” the city is in.

A packed City Council chamber on Nov. 14 for the City Council meeting. Addressing the council during the public comment period were people speaking for the group of Black employees who submitted a 39-page report on racist treatment and practices on the job. Credit: City of Evanston YouTube

Council members are scheduled to continue to discuss the pensions as well as other issues in the city’s $400 million at a special meeting Nov. 21.

In other action, the council voted 8-1 in support of granting variances to Northbrook-based Underwriters Laboratories to place logo-type signs at the north and south faces of the 20-story 1603 Orrington Ave. building, where the company is planning to move two of its divisions.

For more City Council news, including a presentation by people representing the group of anonymous Black employees who submitted a 39-page report outlining racist treatment and employment practices, please visit the RoundTable website this afternoon.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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  1. Pensions are a form of deferred compensation–in this case, for our police and firefighters. It’s part of the pay these city employees have earned. Let’s recognize the obligation we have to them, and also to the residents of Evanston to act with fiscal responsibility and ensure 100% funding. When funding falls below 100%, the debt we Evanstonians all incur just grows and grows. Think of it as pay now or pay way more later.

  2. If Clare Kelly’s proposal is NOT jeopardizing potential payment of requested funding for the Reparations Program from additional transfer tax funds of million dollar plus Evanston homes, it sounds like a viable suggestion.
    If it DOES jeopardize such funding, I’m opposed.
    Reparations is a necessity that has been an outstanding liability for years, and I believe that most Evanstonians want amends to be made with long overdue payment forthcoming.