Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 7, 2013

City has control over pensions

Dear Editor:

When will it ever end! When will the city leaders ever end the practice of raising taxes to solve their own created needs? According to your newspaper, the city is at it again. This time they tell us they have no choice but to raise the property tax to pay the required pension payments for city employees.

According to the news account, the city council is increasing the property tax by only 4.69 percent to avoid the Truth in Taxation Law. For those of you who may not know, our city as a home rule municipality is not limited to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) requirement that limits increases in the property tax to not more than 5 percent or more than the Consumer Price Index whichever is less, but like all units of local government, the city must hold a Truth in Taxation hearing before increasing the tax by 5 percent or more.

As I recall, in late 2004 the city council held another Truth in Taxation

hearing to comply with the law. Several individuals appeared at the hearing to complain but to no avail. After the hearing, the council raised the property tax by 18 percent citing the need to generate funds to pay for pension benefits for city employees. At the time, city officials told us

they had no choice in the matter.

Again this year city leaders tell us they have no control of costs and point

the finger of blame at the state. They tell us that they can’t increase the amount of employee contributions and can’t reduce benefits leaving the public to believe their hands are tied.

Despite their claims that they have no control in this matter, I suggest they do have control. There is nothing in state law that requires municipalities to maintain a minimum of employees. With that said, a first place to start is to stop replacing policemen and firemen when they quit or retire.

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