Park Ridge City Council rejects lower tax-hike proposal
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:20AM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge residents will see slightly larger property-tax bills despite a city official’s 11th hour attempt to further reduce the tax hike.
The Park Ridge City Council on Dec. 17 adopted a $20.95 million tax levy for 2012 and approved property-tax abatements for debt services totaling approximately $3.58 million.
Though not indicated on the meeting agenda, a Dec. 3 vote on the levy was actually a first reading with final approval coming on Dec. 17.
The pared-down request is approximately $887,000 less than what the city had projected in early November it would need to balance several funds within the 2013-14 budget. At that time the proposed increase was 7.5 percent, or $1.25 million more over last year’s levy.
A reduced allocation for the library, postponed plans for parking lot repairs, and other reductions resulted in a 2.15-percent tax increase, or $364,829 more, for next fiscal year’s operations.
Sixth Ward Alderman Marc Mazzuca proposed for the second time this month lessening the tax bump to $128,721 by adjusting rate of return projections for fire and police pensions.
He pointed to an actuarial experience study published by the Illinois Department of Insurance in late September that reported the best estimate for pension plans totaling $10 million or more was a 6.75 percent assumption rate.
Applying the more optimistic rate to Park Ridge’s public pensions plans would keep additional dollars in taxpayers’ pockets during the still-rough economic climate, Mazzuca said.
Representatives of the pension fund boards, as well as some city staff and officials, were skeptical about altering the already agreed-upon figures late in the game.
J.D. Bruchsaler, secretary of the Park Ridge Firefighter’s Pension Fund, said the Pension Board had unanimously endorsed an actuarial report projecting a 6.5 percent return rate.
Mazzuca asked whether the proposed contribution reduction – which he said represents a third of one percent of the pension funds’ total assets – would “materially impact” the city’s ability to meet its retirement obligations.
“I just want to understand why I’m asking people for extra money,” he said.
Carl Brauweiler, a trustee on both pension fund boards, said police and fire pensions are currently 70 percent funded and that the remainder is a liability to the city.
“In the immediate future that small amount wouldn’t affect us,” he said, “but you’d have to pay it back with interest.”
Firefighter Pension Fund Trustee Joey Egan said withholding incremental pieces of the pot builds up over time, resulting in underfunded pensions that create problems for future generations.
“It’s a fairness issue to our citizens today as well as in the future,” he said. “We’re pushing this to our kids.”
The City Council ultimately defeated Mazzuca’s amendment 5–2, but suggested that it would revisit pension calculations in the spring during the next budgeting process.
Fourth Ward Alderman Sal Raspanti, who sided with Mazzuca, noted that rethinking a rate recommendation was not an unprecedented act by the City Council, pointing to a decision earlier in the year to implement a fee structure for water usage that did not align with a commissioned study’s findings.
Mazzuca had offered the revised proposal in that instance, too.