Michael Levan | Illinois Politics
“At the state level, Illinois needs constitutional pension reform. The changes that were passed under Madigan benefit a few at the expense of the state’s many taxpayers. The compounded 3% increase in the cost of living each year is ridiculous.
“Neither savings accounts nor Social Security offer this level of year-over-year increase. Social security increases maybe 0.5%, and some years there is no increase. Some people make more money in pension payments than they do working, and that is not fair to taxpayers.
“In recent years, the inability of state and city to pay pensions in addition to tax mismanagement has been passed on to taxpayers through endless tax increases and declining services. “
“I have lived in Peoria for over 50 years. I think the city of Peoria needs to reconsider the way they budget. Just as we take care of personal finances and individuals consider their income and expenses and cannot buy more than you can afford, the city needs to exercise restraint in its budget and spending.
“Tax mismanagement has reduced our services. We used to have street sweepers, and now they come maybe once a year. In winter, they reduced residential plowing. The city will mainly take care of the main roads because it claims it cannot hire the workers to operate the snow plows.
“Previously, our garbage charges were paid annually by the city through our taxes, but then they adopted a garbage charge that was supposed to be $ 50 per year. It’s between $ 200 and $ 1,000 a year now. People weren’t paying the fees themselves, so they included them in our taxes again.
“Also, when we moved to Peoria in the 1970s, the EPA told the city it needed to replace the storm water pipes that mixed waste and [rainwater]. In 2020, the EPA fined the city $ 100,000 so they passed on the costs of rebuilding the pipes to residents as an additional stormwater charge, or “rain tax.” , billed quarterly. “
“City officials say pension payments are growing faster than the city can handle. Yet many city officials are making comfortable pensions and retirements and continue to spend our tax dollars on things that do not serve taxpayers.
“In several cases, the local government has bailed out businesses at the expense of taxpayers. We pay our taxes and hope the city makes its retirement payments, but these bailouts are trapping taxpayers in a deeper tax hole. In the case of [Hotel] Pere Marquette, Peoria should have paid her pension, but instead paid [$7-8 million] developers who subsequently went bankrupt. So the city had to set up a boarding fee to reimburse the boarding money that we already paid once.
“They also used hard-earned taxpayer dollars to save the Civic Center. I have nothing against the Civic Center, but the hotel, restaurant and entertainment taxes were meant to be temporary for the construction of the center. When the Civic Center was paid off, they didn’t want to lose the… tax revenue, so they planned to add to an empty Civic Center. Recently, the city took out another $ 4 million bond to provide more financial assistance to the center. They keep charging the… tax, and they’re not making very good use of our tax dollars.
“The city has received $ 46 million in pandemic relief, which it technically cannot use directly for pensions. But the additional revenue could be used to offset further tax increases, and pension payments could be made with other tax revenue. The city council has just voted to eliminate the pension costs since the citizens do not pay, but they are scrambling to make up the shortfall of $ 2 million. If the city made the pension payments on time, we wouldn’t need to continue paying additional fees.
“I have also noticed that municipal officials or officials nearing retirement participate in the increase in pensions. Retirees tend to receive 75% of the average of their last five years of salary upon retirement. Therefore, it is common for workers nearing retirement to receive promotions or transfer to managerial positions for a short period of time in their later years, unfairly raising pensions on the taxpayer’s penny. “
“Even though it’s 10 people a year who retire with inflated pensions in Peoria, that equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in added liability to taxpayers and even less money for the city to spend on essential services. . If well-paid retirees and city officials do this statewide, it makes our state’s pension deficit even more difficult. “
“Former employees of the City of Peoria have also crossed state lines to collect both Illinois and out-of-state pensions. These examples of abuse are unacceptable and very unfair to taxpayers.