The Willowbrook Village President and Board of Trustees voted unanimously on August 9th to adopt a resolution to add an advisory question on the ballot for the upcoming general election on November 2nd. The question is intended to raise public awareness and educate constituents as to the extent of the current public safety employee pension crisis and the impact the pension expense has on the taxpayer.
The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an organization comprised of 272 individual municipalities located throughout a six-county region, recommended that its members consider adding the referendum question on the November ballot to urge legislative action for pension reform. Willowbrook is one of a number of towns that will submit an adopted resolution to the local election commission to add the question on the ballot this fall.
Village President Robert Napoli stated during the discussion, “Over the last two years, the Village’s police pension contribution amount has increased nearly 50%. The Village currently pays over $550,000 a year to fund pensions for thirty-one police pension members. Although some of the latest increases can be attributed to poor market conditions causing lower investment returns, the Village cannot continue to absorb these costs. While we support a strong pension program for our officers, it is now time for this issue to be forwarded to the citizens for their consideration.”
One of the causes of the pension increases are poor investment returns, another is benefit enhancements approved by the state, which are outside of the Village’s control. Although the first pension reform bill, Public Act 96-0889, was approved by the state legislature in March of 2010, the legislation exempted the pensions of police, fire, and county sheriff employees. Willowbrook has historically opposed benefit enhancements for all government pensions and urged legislators that pension reform measures must be taken. However, changes have yet to occur for public safety plans.
The Village of Willowbrook does not levy a conventional property tax. Therefore, during a recessionary economy, sales tax and other available revenues decline. This has prompted the Village Board over the last year to consider a myriad of downsizing options to ensure expenditures do not outpace revenues. Staff reductions and outsourcing are among the items that the President has recommended to the Board in order to make ends meet.
President Napoli stated, “We have done all we could do to oppose pension cost increases that will jeopardize the Village’s long-term financial sustainability. We must now advise our residents of the current pension crisis.”
Village President Robert Napoli
Village Administrator Tim Halik