Opposition surfaces for Round Lake Park police pension proposal
Formal opposition has surfaced regarding a Round Lake Park ballot initiative seeking permission to borrow $5.4 million to boost the police pension fund.
Taxpayers United of America's Chicago branch highlighted the Round Lake Park referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot in a news release expressing concern about governments seeking more money across the state.
The organization contends the request should be rejected because what the village wants to do would be similar to using one credit card to pay down debt on another.
Round Lake Park Trustee Scott Murar, a spokesman for the proposal, and Mayor Linda Lucassen did not return messages seeking comment.
Under the Round Lake Park proposal, the village would borrow the $5.4 million to strengthen the police pension fund by issuing bonds to investors. If voters give permission to borrow the money, it would cost about $100 more annually for an owner of a house valued at $125,200, officials said.
Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America, said the village would be better off pushing for legislation allowing financially struggling Illinois municipalities to declare bankruptcy or closing the police department and contracting for service to slash expenses.
Tobin noted Rockford's Larry Morrissey is working with other mayors in support of a bill that would let towns reorganize in bankruptcy court to get relief from pension debt and unfunded state mandates. He said public employee pension costs have skyrocketed to the point where many towns cannot afford to direct money to the funds.
"It's basically a problem that's unsustainable," Tobin said Wednesday.
Round Lake Park's police pension fund is at 23 percent to 24 percent, believed to be one of the lowest in Illinois. Proponents say the problem is a state tax cap limits how much the village can collect from property owners, thus thwarting any effort to boost the police pension fund.
Officials said while the village is meeting minimum contribution requirements, it is about half what should go into the police pension pool annually. The village has been falling about $240,000 short each year.
In April 2013, voters rejected a request for a property tax rate hike to raise money for the pension fund. Village officials said police layoffs are possible if the Nov. 8 request is rejected.